WHEN the decision was made to cut Rangers’ allocation for the final Premiership match of the campaign, it was billed as a chance to celebrate all things Kilmarnock for the home support. Billy Bowie and his board will feel more than vindicated now.

This was the ultimate end of season party for those in blue and white. Goals from Chris Burke and Eamonn Brophy were enough to beat Rangers, but the rewards were far more than three points as Steve Clarke led his side to third place in the Premiership. The challenge now is to ensure the turnstiles continue to click over next term, but with his side to support and Europa League football to come, it is seemingly unthinkable that the locals won’t turn out in their numbers.

For Rangers, an Alfredo Morelos equaliser proved scant consolation as their campaign came to a disappointing end. They have been second best over the course of the season, and they were second best during the final 90 minutes.

This was very much Kilmarnock’s day. There have been several special one since Clarke arrived in Ayrshire, but this topped the lot, this will go down as the most memorable.

The situation regarding Clarke’s future was the main topic of discussion before the game and all eyes were fixed on the main stand as the 55-year-old took his seat. A suspension handed down by his future employers ensured he wouldn’t be able to take his place in the dugout, with assistant Alex Dyer overseeing the final match of a remarkable campaign.

While Rangers had nothing to play for in terms of the table, there was plenty on the line for their hosts. A win would guarantee a Europa League spot, but any other outcome would mean an anxious wait to discover how Aberdeen had fared at Easter Road.

There has been little between these two over the course of the season and there was no reason why Kilmarnock shouldn’t have fancied their chances here. Gerrard had made changes to his line-up as James Tavernier, Nikola Katic, Steven Davis, Scott Arfield and Jermain Defoe dropped out and there was very much an end of season feel about the Gers.

When Rangers made their last league trip to Rugby Park just after the winter break, they did so on the back of victory over Celtic at Ibrox. Confidence was high and a title challenge was in mind.

History, of course, tells a different story and the costly defeat that night saw all the momentum from their Old Firm win immediately lost. The moment of madness from Joe Worrall didn’t help the Gers’ cause on that occasion and the home crowd were keen to remind the defender of his error every time he got on the ball in the opening stages.

Soon, the ironic cheers of mockery would turn into ones of celebration as Burke gave the home side the lead inside ten minutes. It was one they deserved.

Rangers had come close through Morelos and then Daniel Candeias as Jamie McDonald saved well from the Colombian and the Portuguese rattled the bar with a follow-up effort.

But it was Kilmarnock who had started with more verve and more purpose. That wasn’t surprising given what was at stake and Burke finished emphatically across Wes Foderingham after Rangers were split open by a terrific Youssouf Mulumbu pass.

It was a moment that brought three sides of Rugby Park to their feet. This had the feeling of one of those days, one that would be savoured for some time by the home support.

A Rangers equaliser would have taken the atmosphere down a notch but Gerrard’s side were causing few problems. Ryan Kent had almost replied immediately to Burke’s opener as he jinked his way into the box before being denied by MacDonald, while Morelos fired into the side-netting.

But it was Kilmarnock who were hungrier and sharper and they who looked like scoring the second goal of the afternoon. News that Hibernian had taken the lead at home to Aberdeen had filtered through, but Sam Cosgrove’s equaliser was proof that the hosts still had work to do after the break here.

The lack of intensity from his side would have alarmed Gerrard. If there was going to be any way back for Rangers, they had to significantly raise their levels.

It was the Gers that started the second period on the front foot, but chances were still few and far between. That final pass, the moment of quality, just wasn’t there when it really mattered.

Rangers were sloppy in possession rather than clinical and composed, although they were still well in the game while Kilmarnock’s lead remained narrow and the hour mark was passed.

Alan Power should have eased any nerves in the home ranks. He collected the ball on the edge of the area and worked his way into a shooting position, but his effort was scooped high over Foderingham’s bar as Kilmarnock’s best chance of the half was spurned.

Within minutes, it would prove costly. Kent and Ryan Jack combined down the left and Morelos completed the move, firing the ball beyond MacDonald to pull Rangers level and get the 30th goal of the campaign that looked like it would evade him this term.

Rangers now had a seventh consecutive win in their sights, while Kilmarnock knew they had to score to finish above Aberdeen. Liam Miller was denied a dramatic winner by the offside flag, before keeper Andy Firth became the second Gers debutant, following Dapo Mebude, as he replaced the injured Foderingham for the final seven minutes.

He was soon picking the ball out of his net. It was Brophy that had put it there from 12 yards.

A foul from Borna Barisic on Stephen O’Donnell gave the striker the chance the make himself a hero in Ayrshire. He kept his cool and composure, and his finish to Firth’s right proved the winner.

Kilmarnock in Europe was a script many could have penned at the start of the season. Come the end of it, you had a feeling it was written in the stars.