Leicester loanee Harry Panayiotou’s incredible stoppage time equaliser, just minutes after missing a penalty, ended what was an enthralling encounter in Kirkcaldy.
Over 5,000 Rangers fans descended on the streets of Raith hoping for a party and a long-awaited return to Scotland’s top flight.
As the time quickly ticked away in the Lang Toun, the Rangers fans began to celebrate as a victory for them – coupled with Hibernian failing to beat St Mirren – would be enough for the Scottish Championship to take its place in the Ibrox trophy room.
Well into stoppage time, it looked certain that this would be the outcome with Hibernian drawing 2-2 with St Mirren while the Light Blues led Raith 3-2.
With virtually the last kick of the ball however, Panayiotou bundled the ball home from close range to put the celebrations on hold.
This means Rangers now have another chance to wrap up the title on Tuesday in front of a packed Ibrox against Dumbarton, which they succeeded in.
However they will look back at the game against Raith as a major disappointment – they have now conceded 9 goals in 3 games
The game was very cagey to begin with and Raith defending resolutely, not succumbing to the possession based game that Rangers play.
For all the criticism the Rangers defence has had, there was nothing they could do about a dipping Louis Longridge strike after 24 minutes, as the Kirkcaldy side put a spanner in the works early on.
It was always going to be a tough five or so minutes following Longridge’s goal and it showed as Rangers tempo increased.
Harry Forrester netted his fifth goal in his last seven games, after he found space for a free header from Barrie McKay’s corner.
Forrester, with another impressive showing, then became provider as he played a driven cross into the on-running Michael O’Halloran who tapped home from close range. This O’Halloran’s second goal in two games.
Raith responded quickly and equalised through former Partick Thistle midfielder James Craigen. The Englishman latched onto an Iain Davidson header and his low strike from the edge of the box beat Wes Foderingham, one the former Swindon Town keeper would have hoped to save.
The topsy-turvy feel to the game continued; veteran Kenny Miller firing the Gers back in front four minutes into the second half. Persistence from Andy Halliday in the midfield and then putting the ball on a plate for Miller who converted with a rising shot.
News was filtering through all around the stadium that Hibs were behind and the Ibrox faithful began to believe going into a chaotic last five minutes.
Firstly, Rob Kiernan fouled substitute Harry Panayiotou inside the box with Referee Euan Anderson pointing to the spot.
The man on loan from giant killers Leicester could have very well killed off Rangers hopes for the title for another day. The Saint Kitts and Nevis international had his penalty saved as Foderingham dived to his left to deny the substitute.
Panayiotou soon turned into a hero as he bundled the ball home after a mass scramble in the box to claim his first Raith goal since joining in late January – what a time to get it.
Raith left-back Rory McKeown admitted after the match that the fourth place spot was all but theirs.
McKeown said: ” I think more or less that guarantees us a play-off spot.
“Queens are behind us by 14 points and we have a superior goal difference, so hopefully we go and finish it off now.”
Raith and McKeown certainly have no fear if they do make the play offs based on results this season against the top teams.
“We’re showing we are on form at the moment. There is a lot of confidence throughout the squad.
“You know we’ve went 1-0 up today and they’ve (Rangers) have come back and took the lead – teams can crumble in that sort of atmosphere and situation – we haven’t today.
“To do that against a team like Rangers shows that we can do it, we have nothing to fear; we’ve beat Hibs and drawn with Falkirk we know we can beat them.”
McKeown who has played every minute this season, said he felt comfortable against the league leaders.
“Today I felt, as bad as it sounds, comfortable against them. They played a lot in front of us today.
“Kevin [Cuthbert] made a great save in the first half were it looked like they were going to score. After that they didn’t create that many chances and we had a penalty and obviously got the late equaliser.
“We’re beating all the teams around us and got a great result today against Rangers and to do what we did in the last minute was pretty special.”
Image Credit: Dirk Vorderstraße (dirkvorderstrasse, flickr)