THIS was a game that had everything. Crucially for Steven Gerrard, the three points went Rangers’ way at the end of it.

Two goals from Alfredo Morelos were followed by his third red card of the campaign against Aberdeen, while Scott McKenna gave away a penalty before following him up the tunnel. James Tavernier converted from 12 yards and then conceded a spot-kick.

It was Jermain Defoe that had the final say, however, as his injury-time strike sealed a 4-2 win on arguably the biggest night of the season so far for Rangers.

On a remarkable evening at Pittodrie, that was all that mattered for Gerrard. This was a battle that had to be won if the Gers were to keep up the pace in the Premiership title race, and it was.

The points were imperative and Rangers must now capitalise on the confidence and momentum they will take from a thrilling encounter and hard-fought victory.

The last time Rangers travelled to one of their rivals at the top of the table, Gerrard saw his side slump to what could prove to be a costly defeat. The response since that night at Rugby Park had been just what the Gers boss had asked for, though.

The wins over Livingston and St Mirren had to be followed up here, however, as Gerrard faced the Dons for the fourth time this term and returned to where it all began for him in the Premiership.

Morelos had his share of the headlines that day as he was controversially, and wrongly, sent off for an early tangle with McKenna. That particular battle was resumed here, and it was the Colombian that certainly won it in the first half before both ended their nights prematurely.

Morelos had little service during the opening stages as neither side really got into their rhythm and a low shot across goal was as close as Rangers came inside the first quarter of an hour. At the other end, Greg Stewart should have done better from close range.

The game needed a bit of magic, a spark, to help it burst into life. Not for the first time this season, it was Kent that provided it for Rangers.

The winger picked the ball up in a central area and went on a mazy run that took him to the right edge of the box before he fired in a shot that keeper Joe Lewis could only parry. Unfortunately for the Dons, it fell straight to Morelos.

The striker was in the right place at the right time and took full advantage as he converted into the empty net. It was his 22nd goal of a superb campaign and the perfect start for Rangers.

It was the visitors who were looking most threatening as they went in search of a second goal. It, and a third, did arrive before the break, but not before Aberdeen had pulled themselves level.

Borna Barisic was punished for losing the ball as he moved into the Dons’ half and he could only watch on as the move unfolded and the ball eventually ended up in the back of the net.

Stewart had started brightly and it was his good work that caused Rangers problems. A cross from the right was cleared, but only as far as Lewis Ferguson.

As he fired in a shot from the edge of the area, the ball ricocheted around and fell to Sam Cosgrove. Like Morelos, he made no mistake as he continued his own fine form in the final third.

It was all about Rangers’ reaction, now. The vocal travelling support may have been worried, but they need not have been.

By the time a frantic first half came to a conclusion, Rangers had three goals and their sights were firmly fixed on the three points.

The second one came via a similar route as the first as Kent again cut open the Dons’ defence and found Morelos. His finish this time showed far more class than his predatory instincts for the first and he placed the ball perfectly beyond Lewis and inside the right hand post as he hit number 23.

The Pittodrie crowd were furious with Morelos’ reaction as he milked the moment and their mood would only degrade further. There was no equaliser this time.

Instead, it was Rangers that would extend their advantage after referee Bobby Madden pointed to the spot when McKenna inexplicably handled a Tavernier free-kick.

There was no controversy about this award and, as per Gerrard’s strict instructions, the Ibrox captain stepped up to take the penalty. Like he did twice on Saturday, he converted from 12 yards as Lewis couldn’t get a strong enough hand to the strike.

It was perhaps inevitable after a weekend of penalty debates that there would be one here. That wasn’t the only time Madden awarded a spot-kick, though.

The foul from Tavernier on Ferguson was just as blatant as McKenna’s handball and the call for Madden was an easy one to make.

Cosgrove had to score to give Aberdeen a timely boost and he did just that. It was very much game on once again.

It didn’t take long for tempers to boil over. Morelos and McKenna tangled near the touchline and the striker aimed an outstretched leg towards the stopper as he appeared to stamp on him.

In retaliation, McKenna lashed out and caught Morelos with his boot and he was sent off as the Colombian received treatment. Once he got to his feet, he too was shown a straight red.

The loss of a key man appeared to affect Rangers more than it did Aberdeen and the hosts continued to threaten as they pushed for a leveller. Rangers had to see it out and every chance that was passed up was greeted with a sigh of relief from the Light Blues.

Gerrard seemed content with what he had as his side continued to soak up a spell of pressure. The introduction of Nikola Katic in place of Kent gave Rangers another defensive body as they edged towards victory.

The first handful of the seven added minutes would have dragged in for Gerrard and his players but Defoe eased the nerves and clinched the win with a clinical finish from inside the box.

At last, the game was won. When it was done, the celebrations from Rangers said it all about how important the victory was.