Neil Lennon has insisted referee Bobby Madden was wrong to make the game-changing decision to red card Celtic defender Nir Bitton as Rangers won the Old Firm derby 1-0 at Ibrox.
Bitton, deployed at centre-back as a replacement for the injured Christopher Jullien, hauled down Alfredo Morelos in the 62nd minute of Saturday's game.
Within eight minutes, Callum McGregor had scored the own goal that settled the match and opened up a 19-point gap that all but ends Celtic's title hopes and places further scrutiny on the manager.
Referee Bobby Madden's decision to send off Nir Bitton has been questioned by Neil LennonInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Kristoffer Ajer (right) also challenged Madden after the stand-in centre-back was dismissed
Lennon said: 'I'm bitterly disappointed as we were the better team. The referee has made the wrong decision and it has changed the course of the game.
'It's not a sending off. It's a foul – we had Ajer on the cover and Morelos is in a wide position. It's not a clear and obvious goalscoring opportunity.
'He might get a shot off but he's certainly not clean through on goal. I think he is too quick to get his red card out.
'I'm really proud of the performance. I thought we were outstanding up until the red card, which changed the course of the game. We were in total control – dominating the game, dominating the play, dominating the chances.
Lennon was proud of his team's performance as they lost 1-0 to city rivals Rangers in the derby
'Again, we've been done by a pretty poor refereeing decision. I didn't think he was great all day. He's made the decision straight away.'
Lennon, who admitted he had not spoken to Madden about the decision afterwards, continued: 'Nir has not done great – he's got himself in the wrong body position. But he (Morelos) is not clean through. Ajer was on the cover.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
'We had to rejig things and we were really unfortunate with the goal. Our goalkeeper had nothing to do today – nothing.
'We needed a goal to top off our first-half performance. We felt the goal was coming until the red card which changed the course of the game. In a game of this magnitude, it's a really rash decision from the referee.'
Under-pressure Lennon wants to make a signing to replace crocked regular Christopher Jullien
Unbeaten in the league, Rangers' form offers little encouragement that Celtic can effect the turnaround necessary to clinch a tenth successive title.
Lennon insists he is not giving up.
He added: 'You have got to keep going. You can't just say it's over because there is still a lot of football to be played.
'We have to be a lot more consistent in the second half of the season than we have been in the first half.
'There was plenty of belief in that performance. If we keep playing like that, we