Fortunes fluctuated wildly as Hearts surrendered a 2-0 lead, looked as if they might lose the game, then came close to the victory they so desperately wanted. In the end, they remain one point behind Rangers. The Hearts of the first half were clearly the side that has maintained the challenge at the top of the league. The moves were flowing, the forwards dangerous and bottom-placed Hibs looked out of their depth.
The return of Shaun Dennis to the Hibs defence after an absence of a year appeared in the early stages to be too much of a gamble as the towering centre-back struggled to keep up with the pace of the game.
Jim Duffy, the Hibs manager, might have felt some kind of change was necessary to reverse a sequence of results which has seen the club go 14 games without a win.
Chris Reid in the Hibs goal saved well in the fourth minute from Stephane Adam and 60 seconds later he was collecting the ball from the net. A fast- moving attack began with Steve Fulton playing the ball to John Robertson, who passed to Neil McCann and a first-time cross found Fulton, whose glancing header arched over Reid into the net.
The second goal five minutes later gave a clear indication of the problems Duffy has faced over the last few months. Fulton and Robertson again combined, but the ball broke to the Hibs central defensive pair of Dennis and Jean- Marc Boco. Both appeared to expect the other to clear, allowing Fulton to extend Hearts' lead with a well-placed low shot into the corner.
It seemed at that stage as if Hearts could score with every attack. Fulton, Colin Cameron and Stefano Salvatori had a stranglehold on the midfield, while Robertson was perpetual motion up front.
Cameron lifted a shot over the crossbar shortly after the second goal and a Robertson free-kick was deflected into the arms of the grounded goalkeeper. With five minutes of the first half remaining, Salvatori launched an effort which finished high in the stand.
Hibs appeared down and out, but showed great strength of character in making a comeback. In the 51st minute, Kevin Harper skipped down the right before crossing for Andy Walker, who stooped low to head home after Gilles Rousset, the Hearts goalkeeper, left his line but failed to connect with the ball.
The response from Hearts was immediate as they set about a period of sustained pressure which brought no reward, although Reid was forced to react to a powerful shot by Fulton.
Harper began to use his pace to good effect, stretching the Hearts defence and causing some anxiety among the home supporters. In the 67th minute, Hibs' second goal came from Pat McGinlay, who turned in an Andy Dow cross from the left as Hearts became increasingly disjointed. The calm poise of earlier had deserted them, allowing Hibs the chance to turn the game on its head.
The desperation in Hearts' attack increased, with Fulton shooting over the bar, Salvatori mis-hitting his shot and Thomas Flogel firing over. Hibs might have sneaked a win at the end, but Fulton popped up on the line to divert Dennis' header. As it was, the credit and the glory belonged to Hibs.
Heart of Midlothian (4-4-2): Rousset; Locke, Weir, Ritchie, Pointon (Flogel, 75); Salvatori, Cameron, Fulton, McCann (Hamilton, 85); Robertson, Adam. Substitute not used: Frail.
Hibernian (4-4-2): Reid; W Miller, Boco (Rougier, 87), Dennis, Dods; Harper, Jackson, McGinlay, Dow; Walker (K Miller, 75), Crawford. Substitute not used: Charnley.
Referee: B Tait (East Kilbride).Reuse content