It was a draw that could have been a defeat but that, in the ‘moral’ sense, according to Philippe Clement, was a win. Three goals were not enough to secure all three Old Firm points. Now, only time will tell if this was two dropped or one earned as the Premiership marathon heads for a sprint finish.

Clement and Brendan Rodgers had both insisted on Friday that nothing would be decided at Ibrox and that there would still be plenty of twists and turns to go before one of them bursts through the tape and clinches the medals. Defeat in the third derby of the campaign would have been difficult, but not impossible, to recover from, and the status quo remains between the big two. A draw probably suited both of them on the face of it but the ebb and flow of a pulsating encounter - high on substance but at times low on style - meant that both had reasons to be cheerful and regretful at the same time.

The scenes in the aftermath of the three goals that counted and the one from Cyriel Dessers that didn’t told their own story. Had the corner been filled with away fans, they would have been replicated there after the strikes from Daizen Maeda and Adam Idah, either side of a Matt O’Riley penalty. This was a ‘six-point’ game for Clement but his side were only able to collect one as Rangers thought they had lost it, believed they could win it, almost chucked it all away and then salvaged their afternoon with minutes to spare.

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Clement is often an emotional, animated figure on the touchline, but he is cool, calm and collected in front of the cameras. He does, as the cliché goes, not get too high when he wins or too low when he loses and that mindset – one which has already delivered three league titles in Belgium – will stand him in good stead in Glasgow. 

Midway through his post-match press conference, he was asked a question by a Belgian journalist. After starting his answer in his native tongue, he joked ‘sorry guys, that I speak Chinese now’ to those who had no idea what was being said. Later, when speaking about the Dens Park pitch and the weather forecast, he got another laugh when stating that he was not a groundsman, and that his wife would testify to that. Light-hearted moments - such as the line about his Scottish assistant having a word for Rangers' start to the match that he couldn't use in a press conference situation - have permeated Clement’s countless media duties and offer an insight into the man and the manager.

If Rangers don’t go on to win the Premiership, it will not be because Clement has cracked under the pressure. Many of these players, both old and new, have still to prove that they can handle the heat, though. Defeat to Celtic would have raised well-established points about the bottle of this squad and Rangers came perilously close to blowing it in catastrophic fashion. The manner of their comeback and their hard luck story means a different narrative can be written but this was still a day that raised as many questions as it answered. No verdicts can be wholly black or white.

When Celtic were 2-0 and then 3-2 ahead, they had a five-point lead in the table in their sights and within their grasps. This, then, felt like a great escape for Rangers. Yet it was also a missed opportunity. Come Wednesday night, Clement’s side may well sit top of the table once again but the advantage, should it come, will be a narrow one and it is impossible to determine with any certainty who this was a better result for.

Celtic would have taken it before a ball was kicked but were then left with feelings of what might have been after squandering their advantage in a match that they dominated in the first half. Given that the fourth league meeting will take place at Parkhead, it was understandable why Rodgers was bullish in his own press conference and his side are, as he stated, in a ‘really strong position’. A home win on that afternoon will go a long way towards securing the silverware.

That is the only negative of the situation that Rangers find themselves in. There is every chance that they will travel across the city leading the league but their recent record in this fixture – and their longer-term form at Parkhead – must be a real cause for concern. Is this a team that can take on Celtic and a 60,000 crowd and return to Ibrox undefeated? If they are to do so, the approach and the personnel must change because the Rangers blueprint in these fixtures has been uninspiring and unsustainable for too long.

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Those scenarios do, of course, wrongly discount the other matches on the schedule. The trips to Dens Park and Dingwall carry their own degrees of danger for Rangers and nothing can be taken for granted after the split. The recent defeat to Motherwell is proof of that for Clement’s side, while Rodgers has suffered his share of disappointments over the last few months as Celtic’s advantage has been whittled away.

"Nothing interesting for me," Clement said when asked who had the upper hand in the title race after the Old Firm stalemate. "You guys can fill a lot of pages about that. For me, it is important, we showed what we are about in the second half, so that's why we are the moral winners in that way, to come back after 0-2, I don't think it happened too much in Old Firm games.

"Now it is putting focus on Dundee, a big game and all the focus is on that and not on the ranking or the points so you will not catch me saying or thinking these things in the next couple of weeks, that is something for maybe the last two or the last game, that depends how many points other teams take. I don't have any control of that, we are going to go game by game."

This is a title race that Rangers have no right to be involved in. Celtic would have targeted a double-digit advantage when Clement replaced Michael Beale in October and they have now collected seven points from the three Old Firm fixtures, yet they have been unable to shake off a side that Clement has somehow cajoled into contention. Rangers may not have grasped their opportunity on Sunday but their fate is still in their own hands and that is a situation that few would have predicted a few weeks ago, never mind just a couple of months into the campaign.

Clement spoke of his side showing their ‘real face’ in the second half and displaying the traits – resilience, hunger and desire – that he demands as the non-negotiables. He was joined by 50,000 others. Rangers were far from perfect after the break, but they were better and they thoroughly deserved their point in the end. In truth, it would have been difficult for them to be much worse after the most abject 45 minutes of the Clement era.

The Belgian has to take his share of the blame for that. A look at the team-sheet would have dampened the spirits of many pre-match and the howler from James Tavernier burst the Ibrox atmosphere like a balloon. The late interventions from Abdallah Sima and Rabbi Matondo raised questions about why they had not been utilised earlier. In the end, Clement was just thankful that they contributed when they did as they netted to finish the recovery job that Tavernier had started from the penalty spot.

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This was a performance that did little to douse the long-held concerns over the quality of this group of players, both individually and collectively. Yet it was a result that showed the sum of the parts and the mentality that Clement has instilled in it. That is why he could label Rangers as the ‘moral’ winners of the afternoon, because he knows as well as anyone that a two goal deficit could have turned into a trouncing for previous incarnations of this team.

"It is a symbol of it and a good reference game," Clement said when asked about the spirit within his ranks. "It is not the first one, we have also had others, but this is more significant because it is an Old Firm game against a very good team because Celtic is a very good team. To react like that is a huge thing, it is a strong thing and it is the thing that I demand.

"I demand that from the first second I step into this building, that I never want to see players giving up with their heads down, I always want them to fight in every situation and they did in the past but this is even bigger, because of the importance of this game and quality of opponent, this will give a lot of confidence, belief but it is also important to stay humble and be ready for the Dundee game and do that from the first second of the game and not give belief to the opponents like we did today."

The next 48 hours will determine when Rangers next take to the field. If it comes as scheduled at Dens Park, they will play their penultimate pre-split fixture a point behind Celtic and one goal worse off in terms of goal difference. It could yet come down to that by the time we reach game 38.

Once the rammy that followed the final blow of John Beaton’s whistle had been broken up, Clement sent his side on a lap around Ibrox. The reaction was somewhat different from an hour previously, when Rangers deservedly and dejectedly walked up the tunnel to a chorus of boos. The reaction was more than merited at the break but so was the applause at the end.

In those last moments, there was a concoction of emotions as the relief at salvaging a point was mixed with the frustration at not claiming all three. This was one that Rangers got away with and let slip through their fingers at the same time. Rarely has a derby draw felt like it did here.

The next seven matches will determine the true significance of what unfolded in an eye-catching, headline-grabbing, end-to-end Old Firm. The praise and the points were shared on this occasion. In the end, there will only be one winner.