St Johnstone couldn’t strip Rangers of their Premiership invincibility.
But they did the next best thing – and secured a precious point to bolster their hopes of European football next season.
And, after this performance, they’ll also believe they have a fighting chance of denying the champions a shot at a league and cup double at the weekend.
It looked like the Perth team were going to be unlucky losers.
Not only did they have more clear-cut chances than their opponents before Scott Wright scored the opening goal of the contest 10 minutes into the second half, they were also the victims of a penalty being given to them and the referee then changing his mind.
However, deep into stoppage-time they did get a spot-kick that was allowed to stand and Liam Craig scored it.
With Livingston losing to Hibs, Saints are now just three points off fifth spot and have a great chance of bridging that gap given the respective form curves.
And the Betfred Cup winners should also be encouraged that if they can produce a repeat display at Ibrox on Sunday – but be more clinical with it next time – it could be them and not Rangers who have the opportunity to turn one trophy into two.
There was a combined team’s worth of changes between the sides from their weekend cup ties – four for Saints and seven for Rangers.
Callum Davidson’s line-up was certainly a lot closer to what you would consider to be a first choice 11 than Steven Gerrard’s.
And it showed in an encouraging opening to the match for the hosts.
Well, encouraging in respect of the chances they created.
Less encouraging was the fact that they should have taken at least one of them.
With less than three minutes on the clock Stevie May got a touch to a David Wotherspoon corner that presented an opportunity for a Craig shot.
Unfortunately his first-time effort from eight yards out was straight at Jon McLaughlin, playing in the Premiership instead of Allan McGregor for the first time in several months.
Guy Melamed did find a way past the Scotland squad man but the assistant referee flagged him offside.
Then on six minutes the Israeli had a free header from a Wotherspoon corner – this time an out-swinger from the right – but again it was a comfortable save for McLaughlin.
Simpson made a crucial sliding intervention.
A combination of a lively Saints side and an opposition defence getting used to each other (Jack Simpson was drafted into the backline for his first Rangers start) added up to Davidson’s men springing an indecisive offside trap.
With Melamed waiting for a tap-in if May had been able to find him, Simpson made a crucial sliding intervention to prevent a goal from the square ball.
After that high tempo, and one-sided, beginning Rangers created an opportunity of their own when Ianis Hagi found Simpson unmarked at the back post from where he headed over.
Glenn Middleton wasn’t able to play against his parent club but it was an attacker of his pace that Saints needed when McLaughlin rushed a good 25 yards out of his box to cut-out an Ali McCann ball over the top.
As it was, May was the Perth man in the foot race and he didn’t have the necessary acceleration to win it.
Midway through the half, Davidson was forced into a change when Melamed went off with blurred vision and was replaced by Chris Kane.
Davidson would have probably been satisfied with the number of crosses his team got into the box. Less so with the accuracy of the attempted finishes.
With what proved to be Saints’ last decent chance of the first 45, Liam Gordon headed over after Craig provided the service.
Ten minutes after the break Rangers took the lead.
The Perth players felt there was a Steven Davis handball in the build-up to Wright’s opener but there was no arguing about the quality of the curling 18-yard shot from the former Aberdeen man that gave Zander Clark no chance.
If the Saints men were angry then, it was nothing compared to their rage a few minutes later.
Referee Euan Anderson awarded a penalty for Borna Barisic pulling Rooney’s shirt.
But after a couple of minutes spent waving away Rangers protests and, with Craig having put the ball on the spot, Anderson went to speak to his assistant, Frank Connor, and the conversation resulted in a reverse of his original decision.
There was a good chance for May to pick out Wotherspoon when he hit the byeline on 70 minutes but the striker didn’t spot his team-mate’s run and instead sent a ball across the face of goal where there were no takers.
Saints would have been thinking all the refereeing decisions were going against them when, with five minutes left on the clock, there were loud appeals turned down for a Simpson hand-ball from a Kane shot.
But in the third minute of stoppage time Anderson did eventually point to the spot for a Simpson foul on Kane – and on this occasion there wasn’t a change of mind.
With the last kick of the game, Craig slammed home the penalty and Saints had their deserved point.
The fact that Gerrard said his team nearly “sneaked” a win spoke volumes.