THE quite inexplicable miss that Alfredo Morelos somehow contrived to produce in the closing stages of this classic Glasgow derby match had Celtic supporters guffawing loudly as Rangers fans shook their heads in utter disbelief.

Yet, the opportunity which the Ibrox club squandered - to end an eight game winless run in the fixture, to beat their city rivals over 90 minutes for the first time since way back in 2012, to move to within three points of the leaders - yesterday was arguably every bit as bad.

At no stage since Brendan Rodgers arrived in this country nearly two years ago have their prospects of prevailing been so good; they went into the match performing well and on the back of a six game winning run while their opponents had been exhibiting indifferent form and were missing several key men.

When goalkeeper Dorus de Vries joined Mikael Lustig, Craig Gordon and Leigh Griffiths on the sidelines in the build-up to kick-off and Scott Bain, a player who had not been involved in a first team game of football in over four months, was brought in to replace him their hopes increased perceptibly.

That was also true when the visitors were, with the scores tied at 2-2, reduced to 10 men with 34 minutes remaining when Jozo Simunovic was, quite correctly, sent off by referee Willie Collum for elbowing Morelos as they chased down a James Tavernier through ball.

With Jack Hendry, the 22-year-old centre half who was signed from Dundee during the January transfer window, coming in at right back to make his debut in the game in difficult circumstances, a home triumph seemed a strong possibility.

The sight of Dedryck Boyata, who had gifted Windass the first goal early on and been muscled off the ball by Morelos when Daniel Candeias scored the second, partnering Kristoffer Ajer in the heart of the vistors’ defence will not have filled the travelling support with great confidence.

But Graeme Murty, whose chances of being kept on as Rangers manager beyond the summer have been damaged, if not killed off, by both the display and result, was unable to oversee a triumph.

Murty admitted it had been the biggest disappointment of his brief managerial career to date and any observer of events in Govan could, regardless of their allegiances, understand why. “This was a big opportunity that we have failed to grasp,” he said. “I’m not sure that those opportunities come along too often when you look along your career.”

There has been much excitement in certain quarters about both the signings that Murty has made during the January transfer window, and Greg Docherty, Sean Goss and Jamie Murphy all started yesterday while Jason Cummings came on, and the way Rangers have been performing of late.

This game, though, showed that there still, for all the difficulties Celtic are experiencing at the moment, remains a sizeable gulf in quality both on the park and in the dugout between them and Rangers.

When David Bates was stretchered off injured after Tom Rogic had cancelled out the goal that Windass netted in just the third minute following a Dedryck Boyata slip-up one Fabio Cardoso was brought on to replace him.

Cardoso was brushed aside with considerable ease by Moussa Dembele shortly before half-time as Bruno Alves looked on and was helpless to prevent the striker from lobbing Wes Foderingham.

Defence was far from the only area the home team were second best. Docherty and Goss were bossed by the incorrigible Brown in midfielder while Dembele and Odsonne Edouard were superior in attack.

Edouard netted just two minutes after being brought on for James Forrest in the second half. He received the ball from his countryman, cut inside Goss and curled the ball beyond Foderingham and into the top right corner. What would Morelos have given to be so clinical?

The little Columbian, who struck the post with an inviting empty net beckoning just yards in front of him after Bain had palmed a Windass shot to his feet late on, will be a figure of fun in Scottish football for a while for some time to come now.

Indeed, he will probably need to open his account in the fixture, in either the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden next month or in the final Ladbrokes Premiership meeting of the season at Parkhead after that, to silence the snipers.

The 3-2 triumph sent Celtic nine points clear with a game in hand to play against third bottom Dundee at home and nine matches remaining and has surely sewed up their seventh consecutive Scottish title success.

Rangers have made great strides forward under Murty. But no defeat against Celtic, at home particularly, is acceptable. They must do better if he is to retain his position.

Rodgers showed the accomplished coach that he is when, despite his side being at a numerical disadvantage, he threw on another forward, went with two up front and watched his team net the what proved to be the winner.