Rangers have moved level on points with Celtic at the top of the Premiership after a dramatic victory over Aberdeen at Ibrox. Goals in either half from Rabbi Matondo and Todd Cantwell earned Philippe Clement's side a hugely significant three points in the title race.

Dujon Sterling saw red with three minutes of regulation time remaining after a challenge on Jack MacKenzie. Referee Don Robertson upheld his original decision after a VAR check.

Bojan Miovski had levelled for the Dons late in the first half. Neil Warnock's debut in the dugout ended in defeat, though, as a last-gasp Duk free-kick was followed by the whistle. The new Pittodrie boss could have no complaints and this was a thoroughly merited success for Rangers.

Three points what mattered most

The focus for Clement and his players was on the win. The home crowd shared that vision for Rangers but many would have been greedy and would have wanted goals as well as points. Had Rangers won by three, top spot in the Premiership would have been theirs, at least until Celtic make the trip to Easter Road on Wednesday evening. As it transpired, Rangers never got close.

Had their second of the night arrived in the first half, there is every chance that Clement’s side would have been able to ride the wave of emotion and win convincingly. In the end, they were just happy to win at all. The significance of this success will only become clear in the fullness of time.

Rangers still have pole position in the title race in their sights. The visit of Ayr United on Scottish Cup duty is a temporary break from their Premiership ambitions but the most important of their remaining ambitions is not on the backburner for long. Victory over Ross County next midweek carries its own worth.

Clement will continue to preach the one game at a time mantra. As he stated pre-match, he knows how to get over the course and distance and his experience of winning titles with Genk and Club Brugge will be crucial as his side head down the stretch. Rangers are not top yet, but they may well be when it really matters most.

Ibrox is feeling it

The win over Livingston at the weekend was a straightforward affair all round. This one was, though, always going to feel different. The visit of Aberdeen is one of the standout fixtures on the schedule but the fourth meeting of the campaign had an added edge to it given what was at stake. Ibrox expected and Rangers had to deliver. A flag display in the Broomloan Stand greeted the teams as they took to the pitch and the decibel levels increased.

When Matondo opened the scoring inside seven minutes, they spiked once again. Clement has referenced the synergy, as he calls it, between those on the park and those in the stands as results and performances have improved and trust has been rebuilt. There is a fondness for this group of players, and a belief in them, that seemed impossible to achieve when the Belgian arrived.

The atmosphere dipped as Rangers became more frustrated in their search for the second goal. Those in the away end were heard for the first time when Miovski levelled as Ibrox was stunned into silence. The analysis at the interval would have been the same all around the ground as Rangers conceded such a sloppy, needless goal and failed to deal with a long ball from Connor Barron.

As the clock ticked on, the mood became increasingly tense. Each mistake was greeted with a groan and each near miss elicited a roar of encouragement. The noise at the final whistle told it's own story. This was a big win on a big night for Rangers.

Midfield options offer opportunities

Clement confirmed at his pre-match press conference on Monday that Ryan Jack would sit out the visit of his former club after getting valuable match minutes under his belt at the weekend. It was a call that made sense, although it was one which sparked familiar debates about Jack’s place within the squad. Clement is working to make the midfielder more robust and it was no surprise that he didn’t feature here.

His replacement came as something of a shock, however, as Tom Lawrence came into the midfield. Nicolas Raskin again had to settle for a spot on the bench and Mohamed Diomande took a place in the squad for the first time. It was a show of faith from Clement in Lawrence as the Welshman slotted in beside John Lundstram. Ahead of them, Cantwell made his 50th appearance for Rangers. He marked it in style.

An early combination with Cantwell was a sign of intent from Lawrence. He was able to move though the lines with neat passes and driving runs. Operating from deep, he gave Rangers an option on ball throughout and his vision was a valuable asset.

All three of the central figures were excellent in the first half. Cantwell popped up in threatening positions across the final third. Behind him, Lundstram covered plenty of ground in a commanding performance and Lawrence was always looking for the ball.

The second period was more difficult for each to establish themselves. With 18 minutes remaining, Lawrence – replaced by Sterling in the aftermath - and Cantwell had their say. Lawrence’s powerful drive was parried by Roos and Cantwell was the man on hand on this occasion as his fine scoring run continued. Clement has options, and good ones.

Difficult night for Dessers

Coming off the back of a goal and an impressive all-round performance against Livingston, it seemed likely that Fabio Silva would get the nod to continue through the middle here. Clement had other ideas and it was Dessers that started as he came back into the team. It was a call that would have been made with tactical and physical factors in mind, but perhaps there was a degree of man-management in there as well as Clement once again put his faith in the 29-year-old. Dessers is going to be needed over the coming months and handing him a jersey on an occasion as significant as this would surely have been a welcome boost to a striker who has had his share of confidence issues this term.

The first 45 minutes were somewhat low key for Dessers. Rangers had plenty of attacking impetus at times but the focal point of the forward line wasn’t at the centre of the action. He was crowded out as he attempted to link the play but a neat knockdown set up a chance for Matondo. A couple of minute later, Dessers sent a strike across goal that didn’t have Aberdeen concerned.

His night didn’t last much longer and the introduction of Silva was expected. Once again, the Portuguese looked a classy operator and his vision and touch were evident. He didn't score on this occasion as he nodded a header wide of the far post and then slid a low effort in the same direction late on. Thankfully for Rangers, neither miss mattered.

The best and the worst of Matondo

There are few players within this side who are as consistently inconsistent as Matondo. Two moments in the first half – one seven minutes in and the other seven minutes from the whistle – perhaps encapsulate the good and the bad of the Welsh winger. He gave Rangers the lead with the first and should have doubled it with the second.

This was a different type of goal to the one that Matondo scored at the weekend. On this occasion, he showed his nous to be in the right place at the right time. Rather than staying wide, he drifted in from the touchline and was alert to the opening as Ross McCausland tried his luck from the edge of the area. When Kelle Roos spilled the strike, Matondo was on his toes, followed it in and scored with aplomb.

There were flashes throughout the half that Matondo could cause the Dons problems. When Miovski levelled, thoughts immediately turned to a Matondo miss. The pass from Cantwell was perfectly weighted and directed and the winger jinked away from the Dons defence. The angle seemed to open up ahead of him but he didn’t execute the strike quickly enough and the chance was gone.

He had few others. Just ten minutes after the restart, his night was over as Oscar Cortes was introduced. Once again, the Colombian was bright and caught the eye.