Motherwell 0 Rangers 1
The Gers captain was stripped of the armband and banished from the squad after a fall-out with manager Paul Le Guen, but the Ibrox club just about kept up their charge for second place with a narrow three-point haul.
Motherwell started the year with three new players in their ranks - Danny Murphy, Paul Keegan and Trevor Molloy from the Irish League.
The match had a blistering start with both sides having chances in the opening five minutes, with Chris Burke having a shot saved and Richie Foran heading wide for Well.
Motherwell then had a number of chances with Allan McGregor forced to save at the feet of Scott McDonald.
A flowing move involving Jamie Paterson and Foran ended with a weak David Clarkson header being cleared.
Rangers were forced into a change with Libor Sionko limping off to be replaced by Nacho Novo, but this seemed to help the visitors who finished the half the stronger side.
Kris Boyd was the main culprit for the visitors as he somehow missed his kick from a Karl Svensson pass with only the keeper to beat.
The opening stages of the second half saw both keepers called into action, with Graeme Smith holding on to a Dado Prso shot from a Boyd knock down.
At the other end, McDonald's volley was just saved by McGregor at the second attempt.
Rangers took the lead in a moment of controversy when Smith looked to have beaten Prso to ball and knocked it out for a corner but the referee saw it as a penalty which Boyd scored with ease.
All hell broke loose minutes later as Motherwell tried to force the ball over the line. A melee followed and eventually two straight red cards were shown to Marc Fitzpatrick and Prso when things finally settled down.
Rangers held on for a controversial three points in a game that will be remembered for a five-minute spell that turned the course of events in the Glasgow club's favour.