We’d been here before, hadn’t we?

The obituaries were being dusted off at half-time and updated a few months on, the optics shifting in the Old Firm ecosystem as Celtic jumped back to the top of the table. Ah well, it had been a good run, hadn’t it?

When Rangers slumped down the tunnel at Rugby Park last night a goal behind and losing the battle, the concourses were stirring with the news that Celtic led 6-0 against Dundee. Kilmarnock, ahead through a Danny Armstrong penalty, weren’t giving Philippe Clement’s men an inch. If any moment epitomised the first-half it was that which led to the spot-kick. Borna Barisic, who endured a torrid 45 minutes, created his own issue and then lost the duel with Armstrong to concede an initial free-kick and make an uphill task steeper.

With Rangers struggling to build control in a game where second balls were fought for as if lives were at stake and one slip could prove fatal, was a route back even possible?

But then came a moment. With a deep breath in, an exhale out and a squeeze of the shoulders James Tavernier turned up. Again, as he always does. Finding the net from 25 yards less than 10 minutes after the restart.

Leadership is doing what others cannot and showing them the way to success. It was a goal which levelled John Greig’s 121 for the club. As Tavernier explained recently to the Rangers Review: “First and foremost my task is to lead by example in the way that I play and train. You have to set that precedent -you can’t be telling everyone what to do without doing that yourself first.”

The chance was created through one, rare chink in the home side’s armour. As Kilmarnock’s centre-back pairing let a hopeful pass forward out of their grasp on the slip-and-slide surface in Ayrshire, Tom Lawrence spotted an opportunity. The No.11 knew that, while not a free shot at goal from close range, time was of the essence. And so he sprang forward holding onto possession better than any of his teammates had previously to earn Tavernier a shot from range.

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Lawrence’s shot at goal was coming though, and boy would he take. With the game caught up in the hysteria of Tavernier’s equaliser, the Welshman was laser-focused as the ball bounced around the box looking for a taker. Lawrence punched his laces in anger and Will Dennis was left to play catch up. Think you’ve seen limbs in an away end? Think again.

It was only possible because of Jack Butland. Kilmarnock had a free shot from six yards through Matty Kennedy on 46 minutes that would have drawn the curtains but Rangers’ No.1 provided another big moment in a season littered with examples to start the comeback.

It was two quick set pieces that earned the home side their penalty and created Kennedy’s shot from close range. Only when Rangers raised their own tempo to take a throw-in and free-kick at pace would a win be secured. That pulsating six-minute period encapsulated Clement’s football which had seen them through this far. 1-0 down after 53 minutes and 2-1 up before the hour mark.

Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes pointed out that there was little between the two sides and cited these three moments of quality offered up by Butland, Lawrence and Tavernier as the difference.

Of course, he is right. It took, in a game where control was so difficult to establish, moments to win this match. However, this squad had failed here before only months ago, with almost the same group of players. They’ve been at this stage in many seasons of late and lacked the steely grit a title race demands. Now, under Clement, Rangers feel like a different prospect entirely. 

Football is about how you make people feel. Beyond the styles, the height of full-backs and the technique of individuals, it’s about rewriting narratives and healing scar tissue many experiences strong. Clement has taken a team that lost three of their opening seven league matches and set them top of the pile with 10 games to go.

Make no mistake, this was a statement win because outside of the Parkhead tie after the split Clement’s side will not face a more difficult test domestically. Truthfully a defeat here wouldn’t really have been a shock. Rugby Park has been a graveyard for the Old Firm sides this season with three wins from three before kick-off.

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But as Clement himself said post-match while this win far from hands over the title, without the fortitude demonstrated after the break and seen since his arrival the prospect of a trophy day in May would be impossible.

“Resilience, mentality, solidarity and the quality to adapt,” Clement said when asked what his team showed him.

“We are not busy with that [whether this was the sign of champions]. Without that mentality, you cannot win titles. That is one thing.”

Tellingly, you sense that even the stoic Rangers manager felt the gravitas of last night’s win, hinting at the potential of a “really big statement” talking to the club channel pre-match. Stirring the away fans, now hanging on his every motion and waiting for an opportunity to give back some thanks at the end of the game, you saw a manager who's totally captured the imagination of a squad and fanbase.

Rangers squads in years gone by have had the quality to provide moments. They have not always had the experience at the helm and mentality in the trenches required to make that count at this stage in the season.

When the Ibrox side went to the top of the table in Perth a little over a week ago, upcoming games against the in-form Hearts and Kilmarnock were seen as their real test of staying power.

Without this mentality, without these games, you can't win titles. As statement wins go, last night's in Ayrshire provided a strong message. Rangers are not just in the title race, they’re leading it with 10 games to go.