THE dream is still alive for Rangers, but it could so easily have been a nightmare.

Ally McCoist's side were in the hat for the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final draw yesterday afternoon, but their place in the last four is not yet secured.

A tie with Dundee United at Ibrox awaits, but they still have plenty of work to do after they came within a matter of minutes of one of the most embarrassing results in their history, the 1-1 draw with Albion Rovers a let-off and a let down as they left it late to maintain their place in the competition.

The quarter-final meeting with James Ward's side almost proved the ultimate banana skin as they toiled against their League Two visitors, turning in an abject display on a day when they needed a big performance to prove why they are among the favourites for the silverware this season.

Bilel Mohsni's late equaliser may have spared Rangers' blushes, but it will not provide a shield to the criticism that will surely be forthcoming from a support that made their feelings clear throughout a performance that was far from acceptable.

The Gers didn't deserve to lose this tie, but they certainly did not merit a victory as Rovers battled their way to the most memorable result in their history and earned the right to do it all again on March 18.

If Rangers thought their visitors would crumble at the prospect of playing at Ibrox and with a semi-final berth at stake, they were spectacularly wrong as Ward's side rose to the occasion and shone on the big stage.

From the first whistle to the last, Rovers were committed, determined and dogged, and they got the just rewards for their efforts as they look forward to a replay at New Douglas Park, Hamilton.

The Ibrox pitch was littered with players in red shirts in the closing stages, the effects of cramp bringing the visitors to their knees, but they left at the end of a heroic shift with their heads held high and the prospect of another crack at Rangers something to savour.

In the end, a replay was a welcome consolation for McCoist, who saw his side fall behind early on when Ciaran Donnelly fired home from six yards after his skipper Lee McCulloch headed Mark McGuigan's corner back into the danger area.

It was the start Rovers, and their band of 1,100 supporters, could only have dreamed of, but every time they glanced at the scoreboards on the front of the Copland and Broomloan stands they were reminded that it was, in fact, real life.

The reality was stark for Rangers but, in truth, they never looked like pulling themselves level during a first period that saw them waste possession and fail to really trouble keeper Neil Parry.

Ward's side arrived at Ibrox having not conceded a goal in their four Scottish Cup ties -their defensive resolve proving crucial in the wins over Spartans, Deveronvale, Motherwell and Stenhousemuir thus far - and they were once again well drilled and disciplined at the back as the Gers struggled to open them up and get a clear sight of goal.

Their approach was too one-dimensional, with crosses floated in either collected with ease by the impressive Parry or cleared by one of the Dunlop brothers at centre-back as siblings Ross and Mick snuffed out the threat of top-scorer Jon Daly.

The Irishman was not the only Gers star who failed to fire in the final third, with Dean Shiels and Nicky Law in particular below-par as McCoist's side lacked a spark in a performance devoid of creativity and guile.

The chorus of boos that reverberated around Ibrox at the break, the red and yellow section in the Govan West corner of the ground apart, told its own story and a similar frosty reception would surely have greeted the under-performing Light Blues once they reached the dressing room as McCoist got the chance to rally his troops.

There was certainly a response once the action got back underway, but the Rovers defence remained unbreached. Daly was the main culprit, the striker inexplicably missing the target with only Parry to beat when clear inside the area.

As the clock ticked down but the scoreboard didn't tick over from zero for Rangers, McCoist turned to his bench in search of inspiration as Andy Little replaced compatriot Shiels.

Even luck was not on their side as David Templeton hit the woodwork and Fraser Aird's cross was poked narrowly wide by Mick Dunlop as he stuck out a foot just yards from his own goal.

With just 13 minutes remaining, Gers got the break, and the breakthrough, they needed.

It arrived only a matter of seconds after McCoist had baffled the home crowd by hooking Daly and replacing him with Sebastien Faure, switching Mohsni to the other end of the field to lead the Light Blue forward line.

It was a bizarre move that somehow paid off, the defender getting the decisive touch as he battled with Parry for a deflected Templeton cross that hung in the air and, thankfully for the Gers, ended up in the back of the net.

Rovers were aggrieved that the goal was allowed to stand, but Rangers had no time for sympathy as they went in search of a winner.

It was a goal that never arrived, though, the final whistle signalling the start of the inquest.

By the time the replay comes around tomorrow week, the League One title is likely to be housed in the Ibrox trophy room and, for now, the Scottish Cup could yet join it come the end of the season.