MORTON lost 3-1 to champions-elect Rangers at Ibrox last night after taking a shock lead through Denny Johnstone.

Top scorer Johnstone side-footed into an empty net on 22 minutes after Bobby Barr’s shot was parried into his path by Wes Foderingham.

The Greenock side had survived an early onslaught to go ahead against the run of play, and they looked as though they would take that one-goal advantage into the break.

But they conceded a needless corner two minutes before the break when Derek Gaston swiped at a Harry Forrester cross that seemed to be floating harmlessly behind.

There was a doubt as to whether the Ton custodian had actually touched the ball, but after a second’s hesitation from the officials, a flag-kick was awarded.

And crucially so, as Kenny Miller met James Tavernier’s outswinger with a powerful downwards header that zipped past Gaston into the bottom-left corner.

Levelling right on half-time had created a whole different dynamic, and Rangers edged in front just two minutes into the second half, Miller lashing Jason Holt’s pass beyond Gaston.

One-time Ton loanee Barrie McKay was tormenting his former club down the left side, and he drove forward and slipped a pass inside to Lee Wallace.

The classy left-back controlled and feigned to shoot before flashing an unstoppable finish high past Gaston at his top right.

Sixty-eight times capped Scotland striker Miller thought he had completed his hat-trick when he swept into an empty net on 55 minutes.

But he was in an offside position when substitute Dean Shiels let fly with a thunderous shot which crashed off the crossbar and then hit Gaston’s back before running across the face of goal.

There would be no further scoring and Mark Warburton’s men took another step towards the Championship title by moving 15 points clear of second-placed Falkirk.

The Ton, on the other hand, received a warm round of applause for their efforts from an appreciative travelling support despite the defeat.

Morton (4-4-1-1): Gaston; Miller, Kilday ©, O’Ware, Russell; McCluskey, McKee, Forbes, Barr; McManus; Johnstone.

Subs used: McMullan (for Johnstone, 77), MacDonald (for McManus, 85), and Tennent (for Forbes, 90+1) Subs not used: Lamie, Scullion, McNeil (gk).

Booked: McManus (31), Forbes (85).

Rangers (4-3-3): Foderingham; Tavernier, Ball, Wilson, Wallace ©; Holt, Halliday, Forrester (Shiels, 46); O’Halloran (King, 66), Miller (Clark, 77), McKay.

Subs not used: Law, Burt, Thomson, Bell (gk).

Booked: O’Halloran (45).

Attendance: 45,072