Steven Gerrard says Rangers have blown the title race wide open after defusing Hearts’ unbeaten start to the season.
Craig Levein’s Jambos arrived at Ibrox sitting top of the Ladbrokes Premiership table on the back of six wins and a draw.
But it was Gers who claimed a crucial three points as they exploded out the traps with a sensational first-half display.
Ryan Kent, Alfredo Morelos and Scott Arfield grabbed the goals and while Jimmy Dunne netted a late consolation the damage had already been done to the Jambos, who also had Michael Smith sent-off.
Gers only move up one place to sixth but trim the deficit on the leaders to five points and Gerrard says the Premiership crown is up for grabs after hailing his side’s response to last week’s slip-up at Livingston.
He said: “I thought they were sensational. We have beaten a good team today. I said it before the game and I wasn’t telling lies – Hearts are where they are on merit.
“We’ve beaten a good team today because we went to war with them and we matched them in the war and then our football shone through and that’s what you have to do in games like this.
“This result had nothing to do with Livi and it doesn’t heal the Livingston performance which just wasn’t good enough.
“The challenge for me and the team now is that can we make these home performances away from home and that’s when we will find consistency.
“Today doesn’t heal Livingston, but it was certainly a statement and has blown the title wide open and made it a little bit better looking for us.”
Gers skipper James Tavernier had a hand in two of his side’s three goals as he refused to be distracted by reports Brighton are readying a January bid.
But Gerrard warned the Premier League big guns the right-back will not be leaving on the cheap.
“I know the CEO at Brighton (Paul Barber) very well,” he said. “He’s got my number and he knows where I am. But he best go to the owners and ask for an awful lot of money if he wants James Tavernier.
“That goes for any club that wants my captain. They best go to the bank and get an awful lot of money out – or he’s not going.”
Hearts gifted Rangers the opener just two minutes in when their offside trap malfunctioned, leaving Morelos to tee up Kent for a tap in.
Demetri Mitchell was then robbed 10 minutes later as Daniel Candeias laid on Morelos’ 11th goal of the season and Arfield wrapped up victory from close range just after the half-hour mark.
“We just got it wrong,” said frustrated Hearts boss Levein when quizzed about his side’s defending for the first goal. “We’ve worked that particular situation quite well in the past so you have to take it on the chin.
“One player didn’t come out. For me it’s a gift. I thought if we didn’t gift Rangers the first two goals I think the stats say we were in the game. That included 34 or 40 minutes with 10 men. I’d like that game again, in all honestly, because I think it would have been a different outcome.”