Whittaker opened the scoring against his former club
By Clive Lindsay
Rangers stretched their lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League to 10 points after victory over Hibernian.
The third-top side went close when Sasa Papac cleared a Paul Hanlon header off the reigning champions' goal-line.
But former Hibs defender Steven Whittaker sent a superb drive into the far corner of the net after 49 minutes.
Kris Boyd scored from the penalty spot 20 minutes later after Sol Bamba was ruled to have fouled Kenny Miller, who rolled in the third in stoppage time.
It was Miller who had won the penalty, with he and fellow former Hibs man Whittaker being instrumental as the Easter Road side's hopes of moving to within two points of second-top Celtic were dashed.
Miller (right) scored the third goal for Rangers at Ibrox
Visiting manager John Hughes had showed no fear, making four changes and promising a 4-2-4 formation in his pre-match interview on BBC Radio Scotland.
Strike duo Derek Riordan and Colin Nish made way for Abdessalam Benjelloun and former Rangers forward Alan Gow, while Merouane Zemmama and Hanlon replaced David Wotherspoon and Kevin McBride.
Gow was one of three former Ibrox men in the Hibs line-up, along with Graeme Smith and Ian Murray, while Kevin Thomson returned to complete Rangers complement of ex-Easter Road men.
American winger DaMarcus Beasley made his first appearance since December - Steven Naismith and Kirk Broadfoot dropped out - and everything seemed set up for an attacking game from both sides.
And Rangers took the game to Hibs from the start and Miller rifled a shot narrowly over the crossbar from just outside the area.
Hibs responded, with Merouane Zemmama giving Papac a hard time wide on the visitors' right, and the Moroccan's cross found Anthony Stokes only for the striker to connect awkwardly with a volley that bobbled off target.
Papac was in the right place at the right time when a Zemmama corner found Hanlon free at the back post and the defender's header was flicked clear off the line by the Bosnian's forehead.
Rangers claimed for a penalty when Hibs defender Chris Hogg tussled with David Weir inside the box at a corner at the other end, but referee Steve Conroy ignored the home captain's appeals.
An increasingly tetchy first-half, during which Hughes' formation proved less attacking than promised, ended with Thomson being shown a yellow card for a cynical lunge at Zemmama, while a naughty elbow in the midfielder's face led to a booking for Boyd.
At first, it seemed that it would mean that Rangers' top scorer would miss the next derby against Celtic through suspension, but it appears that he will only collect two points for obstruction rather than three for violent conduct.
Kyle Lafferty replaced Beasley, who looked short of match fitness, at half-time and immediately turned inside marker Hogg and fired a drive that was straight at Smith from 25 yards but the first real test for the goalkeeper.
Lafferty was instrumental as Rangers made the breakthrough four minutes after the break.
The Northern Ireland forward turned the ball wide for Whittaker, who moved inside, played a one-two with Lafferty and fired a left-foot drive into the far corner from 16 yards.
It developed into an end-to-end affair but took until the 69th-minute before either goalkeeper was further tested, Rangers' Allan McGregor allowing a 20-yard Zemmama drive to slip through his grasp before holding the spinning ball at the second attempt.
Rangers almost immediately went further ahead when Miller went down under a challenge from Bamba and Boyd, who had been poised to be replaced with Nacho Novo, blasted his 21st goal of the season from the penalty spot.
Rangers were now in the ascendancy and Whittaker forced a good save from Smith with a cheeky chip and the goalkeeper made another stop to deny Steven Davis from close range.
Thomson pounced on a Hibs mistake to set up Miller to side-foot home from 12 yards to seal a convincing win.
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