In ancient military tome The Art of War, the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu opines that if you know both yourself and your enemy, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. If you are Walter Smith, you can win at least nine. Smith and his wonderfully unwavering Rangers side remain unbeaten in all competitions heading into Halloween after a 3-1 throttling of Celtic on Sunday.
Amid their best start to a season in 89 years, it seems like the galvanised Glasgow side will gladly take on all comers, in Scotland at least, before giving them a hefty clout round the ears.
Aided by their manager's tactical gumption and supplemented by a sense of togetherness perhaps not felt since Smith guided the club to nine straight titles in the 1990s, Rangers went trick-or-treating at Celtic Park a week early. The masterplan to divide and conquer worked a treat.
It has been 13 years since Smith equalled Celtic's record haul of domestic flags, but Rangers remain hellbent on nine. For their travelling hordes, it is a magic number.
As has become the norm on these panting derby days, Smith had Celtic's number.
Billed as 'Something's Gotta Give Sunday' with both sides protecting unblemished records, Celtic gave way rather solemnly. Their players are not the only figures who should be nursing regrets today.
Willie Collum became the latest referee to be caught up in the maelstrom by replicating the botched performances of his predecessors, thus lending credibility to the theory that Scottish officials struggle with the scale of the country's showcase match. Like Celtic, Collum wasn't up to the job amid some ghoulish goings-on in his maiden appearance in the fixture.
Collum made one atrocious decision: he turned towards the action just as Kirk Broadfoot was hitting the deck next to the lumbering Daniel Majstorovic around the 67th minute.
Armed with the full facts, he would have booked the Rangers defender for diving and Celtic, however white their pallor was, would have retained a modicum of interest at 2-1 behind.
Unarmed and unsighted, Collum astonishingly awarded Rangers a penalty which killed the game stone dead. The former Celtic player Kenny Miller smacked his 13th goal of the season in off a post, and that was that. Nobody comes back from a 3-1 deficit against Rangers this autumn, especially a home side who appeared to lapse into some sort of coma in the second half.
It was a black Sabbath for the impish Religious Education teacher Collum, only 31, but it would be cruel to saddle him with the blame for Celtic's first defeat of the season in the SPL. It was Neil Lennon's first domestic loss as manager in 17 games, and a deserved one.
By the time of Broadfoot's dive, their hopes had nosedived. Celtic were already done for by the time Miller had harpooned the home net with his side's second of the day courtesy of more slipshod defending.
Apart from Gary Hooper's opportunist opening goal seconds before half-time, Celtic's lead was much ado about nothing. Rangers' resilience is becoming something to behold.
If Lennon's assertion is correct and there is not much between these teams, Celtic could not afford to be guilty of such a litany of errors against a side who have held Manchester United and Valencia this season.
Celtic toiled to lance a unit built on stout defence and swift breaks. This is nothing new. Smith has been at this caper for years, but it seems that Celtic, with seven players making their debut in the tetchy fixture, were powerless to prevent a rerun of previous images.
At times, Rangers may not be pretty, but they are proving pretty effective. Lennon had called for a strong performance from Collum, but got a weak one from his team.
This should not deter the onlooker from debating the standard of refereeing in the SPL.
Just as Smith's belief that the better team usually wins the Old Firm fixture is correct, Celtic have a right to wonder why so many key decisions seem to consistently go against them.
It is becoming too much of a recurrence to go unnoticed. Smith is unhappy about the pressure being applied to referees before Old Firm matches, but then he is not the Celtic manager who has had to swallow some truly bewildering decisions.
Anthony Stokes's brutal lunge at Sasa Papac and Lee McCulloch's horrendous two-footed chop on Emilio Izaguirre warranted red cards in the first period that never came, but the referee saved his worst for last by awarding a penalty that wasn't.
Collum's calamity comes a day after a linesman apparently resigned amid claims he had been hung out to dry by the Scottish Football Association.
Dougie McDonald awarded Celtic a penalty then changed his mind in their 2-1 win at Dundee United a week ago, seemingly on the advice of Steven Craven. Craven was unhappy that he had been depicted as the man who altered McDonald's mind when the referee had changed it himself.
There is a tickertape of similar rueful moments to pore over.
Craig Thomson opted not to award Celtic a couple of obvious penalties as Rangers won 2-1 at Ibrox a year ago, while Steve Conroy decided to rule out a Marc-Antoine Fortune goal in a 1-1 draw at New Year that was similar to Maurice Edu's goal for Rangers against Valencia in the Champions League.
McDonald cause outrage by red-carding Scott Brown for an incident with Kyle Lafferty in which the main parties merited a pair of yellows. Such decisions deprived Celtic of several points last season, but yesterday's three went to the worthiest cause.
Rangers ended the match as far ahead of their city rivals as the length of Glasgow's Argyle Street. It all made Celtic's celebrations at their goal before half-time look a bit silly. Teams really shouldn't celebrate properly until the game is won.
Rangers have two defenders a class above the home side's main markers. David Weir and Madjid Bougherra are proving as good a partnership as anything that is going around British football at the moment. Majstorovic and Glenn Loovens are patently not.
A free-kick into the box exposed Celtic's soft underbelly as Loovens ended up bundling the ball into his own net for Rangers' equaliser three minutes after half-time.
The Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor made saves from Ki-Sung Yeung and Joe Ledley in the second half that were reminiscent of Andy Goram in his flying pig pomp.
Smith may not like the dubious delights of the Old Firm match, but he sure likes winning them. In his 50th match managing Rangers in the fixture, he enjoyed a 27th success, moving him ahead of Scot Symon and Jock Stein in the fixture's managerial chart.
It's not war, just the end of love, as the ongoing James Dean Bradfield likes to bellow. The latest outbreak of Old Firm combat was more manic than the Manic Street Preachers.
Smith has been known to listen to Meatloaf on his personal airwaves. Two out of three trophies will be acceptable to Smith in his final season as Rangers manager as long as one of them includes the Scottish Premier League.
It is not as if Smith needs another trinket or two to ensure he is forever embalmed in red, white and blue rosettes. Smith is already there.
When he finally hangs up his cardigan, one can imagine him sitting back in a living room bigger than the Blue Room at Ibrox reflecting upon the big game he took down in his career with a wall filled with the heads of stuffed Celtic managers.
He dusted down the old blunderbuss yesterday, and emerged from the shooting match as the first Rangers manager to come from behind at half-time to win an Old Firm fixture since 1977. Heady days, indeed.
The UEFA president Michel Platini watched a presidential performance from Rangers. Platini has called on referees to be shown more respect, but it will be interesting to learn if he heard any of the choice party ditties being aired from the UEFA banned list. That may well be dealt with in forthcoming days, but there was little else to soil the visiting team's luxury afternoon.
To the victor, the spoils. Injuries and suspensions could yet hinder Rangers, but Celtic must find an immediate response when they reawaken from their slumber.
Nine down, 29 to go. Nothing was settled yesterday, but when the dust settles, Lennon must realise that Smith and Rangers provide the biggest roadblock to league riches, rather than a curious species of sub-standard referees.