Football: Hibs' happy Harper

Hibernian 2 Lavety 56, Harper 80 Heart of Midlothian 1 Robert son 71 Attendance: 16,200
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The Independent Online
HEARTS' title flame was left flickering less brightly at Easter Road as Hibernian kept their dwindling survival hopes alive at the expense of their Edinburgh rivals. After a goalless first 45 minutes best forgotten, the two capital clubs produced a stirring second half sparked by Barry Lavety's 56th-minute opener.

Adrift at the bottom, Hibernian were lifted by the goal to levels they have struggled to approach all season. Hearts had the character to respond by finding the right man for the occasion from the bench - the substitute John Robertson's free-kick, his first touch, levelling for the visitors. It was the veteran's 27th derby goal and if this is to prove his last it was some way to finish, but a by now pulsating contest was far from over.

Another substitute, Kevin Harper, left out of the starting line-up because he lacked match fitness was to prove the match winner in dramatic fashion after 80 minutes. A magnificent solo effort, the game's third and last, ensured Hibernian travel to Dunfermline next week with an outside chance of staying up.

An opening as bleak as the conditions saw few opportunities for either side, though the home goalkeeper Bryan Gunn was left standing by a fierce drive just wide from Jim Hamilton after 11 minutes.

Remarkably the second-half was to have everything the first lacked as the match was sparked to life within minutes of the restart as the Hearts striker Stephane Adam screwed a golden opportunity high and wide.

Within two minutes, Hearts were made to pay by a stylish solo strike by Lavety who cut inside to slot the ball past Gilles Rousset from 18 yards.

Jim Jefferies made a triple substitution, and two minutes later Robertson curled in the equaliser from 25 yards. With only 10 minutes left, Harper produced his coup de grace - picking up the ball in his own half, running at the Hearts defence and unleashing a shot beyond Rousset.

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