Connor Goldson's last-gasp winner ensured Rangers suffered no repeat of last season's Rugby Park woes as they kicked off the new campaign with a dramatic 2-1 win.
Steven Gerrard's team lost on both of their league visits to Ayrshire last term and looked set for more frustration as Stephen O'Donnell cancelled out Scott Arfield's early opener with just seven minutes left.
But Goldson crashed home a 90th-minute header to inflict more agony on new Killie boss Angelo Alessio.
Just 77 days had passed since Kilmarnock sealed their best league finish since 1966 with victory over the Light Blues in Steve Clarke's last game in charge.
But their Europa League disaster against Connah's Quay Nomads had deflated much of the optimism that was swirling round the club back then and Alessio admits he is already feeling the pressure.
But Gerrard will hope the victory is a sign his team have come up with a way to win the scrappy points they missed out on last season as Celtic were again allowed to claim the Ladbrokes Premiership title.
Alfredo Morelos - again urged by his boss to clarify his plans for the future this week - returned to spearhead the visitors' attack while former Killie boys Jordan Jones and Greg Stewart started on the bench on their return to Ayrshire.
The hosts had new goalkeeper Laurentiu Branescu and midfielder Mohamed El Makrini on display but they quickly adopted a similar look to last season's Clarke outfit, putting 10 men behind the ball while daring Gers to break them down.
Goldson's ball over the top eight minutes in almost did just that. Stuart Findlay lost the flight in the sun, allowing Morelos in behind but the Colombian's attempted lob was palmed behind by on-loan Juventus stopper Branescu.
Alessio would have been pleased enough as his side stood firm as Rangers held on to the ball while doing little with it. But he could afford no switch-offs and paid a hefty price after 16 minutes as Findlay again went to sleep.
The centre-back allowed Nikola Katic to wander free and plant a firm header on James Tavernier's corner. Branescu's parry did not clear the danger and Arfield rammed home from close range.
Wes Foderingham had to be alert at the other end to keep out an Eamonn Brophy attempt but Killie's stuffy tactics made it difficult for both sides to conjure clear openings.
Kilmarnock should have levelled up on after 56 minutes as Burke slid a perfect ball into the six-yard box for Brophy but the striker - who has not scored from open play since January's win over Gerrard's team - somehow failed to find the target with a terrible miscue.
Joe Aribo had been finding it hard to creep into the spaces where he's most effective but Gers' midfield signing from Charlton came close to adding his side's second as he wriggled past a couple of challenges before seeing Branescu tip his strike away.
Jones' introduction with quarter an hour left was greeted with howls from the home supporters. But the Killie faithful were out of their seats cheering on 83 minutes as O'Donnell grabbed his side an equaliser.
Chris Burke's free-kick was allowed to drift all the way to the back post where the Scotland right-back stood unmarked before smashing the ball past Foderingham for the equaliser.
Rangers desperately poured forward hoping to retrieve the win. Branescu pulled off a crucial stop to deny Aribo's swirling effort but there was no stopping Goldson as the defender bulleted home from another Tavernier corner, leaving the delirious travelling support unable to contain their joy as a number spilled onto the pitch in celebration.
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