THIS was six months in 90 minutes, a day that sums a season so far. If it continues, the only feelings come May will be those of what might have been rather than the relief of finishing second in the Premiership or joy of Scottish Cup glory.

Not for the first time this term, it was a case of an opportunity missed for Rangers on Saturday. Only time will tell how costly their latest slip-up proves to be.

At 2.30pm, news was filtering through the Ibrox stands that Celtic had been beaten at Rugby Park. Less than two-and-a-half hours later, the Gers fans were heading for the exits having seen their side ship more points on home soil and fall further adrift of Aberdeen.

Now, Hibernian have Graeme Murty’s side in their sights. If Neil Lennon and his players have their way, the battle to be best of the rest could be a three-way fight rather than a dual duel.

For most of the campaign, Rangers have been too far behind for Celtic to see in their rear view mirror as they continue on the road towards a seventh successive league flag.

But, with their game in hand against Partick Thistle to come tomorrow night, Murty’s side had a chance to manoeuvre themselves into sight if they had made it four and five wins on the spin this year.

Few Gers fans were dreaming of a title tussle but getting as close to Celtic as possible, and being some way better off than they were last term, is important for the Light Blues in the second half of the campaign.

When the door is left ajar, it is quickly slammed shut, though. When the opportunity is there, Rangers can’t take it.

Victories over Aberdeen, Ross County and Fraserburgh had given Murty’s side the chance to build some momentum at last this term but Rangers remain consistently inconsistent in terms of their performances and their results.

Their second half showing on Saturday arguably merited a share of the spoils but Lennon was rightly delighted as a John McGinn strike and Jamie Maclaren penalty earned Hibs their second Ibrox win of the campaign.

Like in the first meeting between the sides, it could all have been so different for Rangers. Then again, the same can be said of every stumble they have taken at home this term, apart from the defeat to Celtic.

If the Gers are beaten to second spot, they can look back at the 3-2 defeat to Lennon’s side and draw with Hearts in August, the stalemate with Kilmarnock in Pedro Caixinha’s final game or the losses to Hamilton and St Johnstone on Murty’s watch as hugely significant and costly results. Unfortunately for Murty, Saturday can now be thrown into the mix as a game that was there for the taking but one Rangers never looked like grasping.

The individual errors – the miss from Josh Windass when one on one with Ofir Marciano, Daniel Candeias losing the ball to McGinn before he gave Hibs the lead or James Tavernier’s foul on Scott Allan just seconds after Rangers had levelled – cannot be accounted for by a manager. In that regard, Murty was let down by his players.

But there is much for the 43-year-old to ponder, not just ahead of the trip to Firhill tomorrow evening but for the rest of the campaign.

The acquisition of five new players – Sean Goss, Jamie Murphy, Russell Martin, Jason Cummings and Greg Docherty – during the January window has undoubtedly added strength and depth to the Gers squad and given Murty more options.

But doubt remains over what Rangers’ best formation is and what their most effective team is. Against Hibs, neither the setup or the side worked for Murty.

He received deserved praise for his decision to utilise a diamond midfield during his spell as interim manager and he appeared to have found a system that suited Rangers. It is not one that has been used that often more recently, however.

In Marvin Bartley, Dylan McGeough and Scott Allan, Hibernian had guile and physicality, energy and quality, and it was success in the midfield battle that allowed them to emerge victorious overall.

Up against them, Goss and Jason Holt could not be faulted for effort but Rangers had no foothold in the game as Lennon’s side produced an impressive attacking display in the first half.

After the break, Rangers did have more of the play. They couldn’t do enough with it, though, as their ventures into the final third too often ended prematurely.

In Windass, Murty has an unpredictable talent and potential match winner, but he didn’t show enough craft or composure on Saturday. After his early miss, he posed few problems as a creative threat as Alfredo Morelos cut a frustrated lone figure.

Rangers needed an extra man in midfield and another up front but, once again, it took Murty some time to turn to his bench as Greg Docherty and Jason Cummings were belatedly introduced. Both are now surely in the running for a starting spot against Thistle.

Whether that is in the same shape that Murty used at Ibrox or in a return to the one that paid dividends for him last year, only time well tell.

The positive for the Gers boss is that he has options across the squad, and those will only increase when the likes of Ross McCrorie and Kenny Miller return to full fitness.

He must make the most of those alternatives, though, both from the start and during the match.

The big calls must be made at the right times and Murty has to find a way to get the most out of his team and squad half after half, game after game and week after week. Momentum must be maintained rather than gained and quickly lost.

Only then will Rangers have a chance of overcoming and pulling away from Aberdeen and a hope of being able to close the gap to Celtic in the Premiership.

The blueprint has been redrawn during January and now Rangers must lay the foundations sooner rather than later. It is an opportunity they can’t afford to miss.