Rangers fire four in Fife
Rangers tightened their stranglehold at the top of League One as Fraser Aird, Nicky Clark, Nicky Law and Robbie Crawford fired them to a 4-0 win over Dunfermline in Fife.
Home manager Jim Jefferies had the hosts fired up from the off but any chance of an upset was killed off after 22 minutes when Aird put Ally McCoist's side ahead.
And Dunfermline's first defeat in nine games was confirmed with three goals after the interval as the Light Blues extended their lead over the Pars to 14 points with a game in hand.
Stripped of their 100 per cent record by a draw with Stranraer on Boxing Day, the Ibrox men made sure they resumed their canter towards the title with a much-improved display.
This was a Scottish Premiership fixture only two years ago but the financial collapses suffered by both clubs meant they now faced off in the third flight.
However, the Ibrox men's unbeaten start to the season already had them stick-on favourites to claim the automatic promotion slot to the Championship well before they arrived at East End Park packing a double-digit lead over their hosts and nearest challengers.
After sucking up some early Pars pressure, they hit the home team with a sucker punch as Aird was allowed to advance forward before burying a low 20-yard strike.
They then doubled their lead six minutes after the restart as Clark pinched Jon Daly's net-bound effort with a header from point-blank range.
And on 70 minutes, substitute Lewis Macleod showed a sublime weight of pass as he rolled in Law for the third before Crawford rattled home a fourth in stoppage time.
Rangers will face Airdrie on January 2 - the same day as Dunfermline tackle Stenhousemuir - before travelling to Ochilview to take on the Warriors themselves three days later to play a rearranged clash that could see them go 17 points clear.
With a crackle in the air created by the feisty 10,089-strong crowd, Dunfermline went in search of an early opening and thought they had one just four minutes in as Josh Faulkingham sent Jordan Moore clear of the Rangers defence.
Bilel Mohsni and Sebastien Faure, however, recovered in time to crowd out the 19-year-old.
At the other end, Steven Smith poked just wide of Ryan Scully's left-hand post after Daly sent him into the Dunfermline box.
Both these sides ended up as the losers of the fall-out from the Rangers liquidation crisis, with the Light Blues expelled to the Third Division and the Pars defeated in their claim that they should be spared relegation as a result.
But the 18 months that have passed since had done nothing to dilute the mutual bitterness between the opposing supporters, and as they hurled insults at each other the aggression was mirrored on the pitch as a series of meaty challenges were put in during a frenetic start.
Referee Craig Charleston kept it sensible though and allowed play to flow, while Dunfermline went close again on the quarter-hour mark as Stephen Husband met Alex Whittle's near-post corner but saw his header saved by Cammy Bell.
Under pressure, the visitors survived another scare as Bell had to juggle Ryan Wallace's shot from the left before finally grasping it safely.
Having themselves been under the cosh, Rangers were suddenly ahead as Aird drove into open space before finishing with a well-placed left-footed strike after Law did well to draw in three opponents before teeing up his team-mate.
Rangers were denied a second after 43 minutes as Scully blocked Daly's shot from a Lee Wallace cut-back, while 90 seconds later home defender Lewis Martin had to hack clear from his own goal-line after Scully spilled Clark's effort at the feet of Aird.
But McCoist's men grabbed command of the game when Clark added the second.
Aird swung in a corner from the right which Daly met at the near post and his header was destined for the net until Clark stole the credit for himself with a cheeky final touch on the goal-line.
And with 20 minutes left Ryan Williamson dallied on Young's square pass and that handed Macleod the chance to steal before he measured a perfect through-ball for Law to prod beyond Scully.
Bell had to react smartly to deny Moore in the dying moments but Rangers added a fourth in stoppage time as Crawford drilled home from 15 yards after Daly did well to set him up with a headed knock-down.
Source : PA