After last week's sacking of Jim Duffy, Hibernian had to look to their recently appointed director of football, Billy McNeill, to take charge of the side for this crucial game . McNeill, now 57, and recovering from heart surgery, has not been in the dugout for seven years since Celtic dispensed with his services and insists he is not interested in the vacancy.
His blood pressure could not have been helped by the opening spell, in which Aberdeen rarely allowed Hibs out of their own half. Stephen Glass shivered the cross-bar with a stunning right-foot shot in the seventh minute.
There was little continuity about Hibs, who have been through three managers in 17 months. That chain of events was started by the sacking of Alex Miller, the man opposite McNeill in the dugout, and the Aberdeen manager watched his current side turn the screw further when another stunning drive from Glass, in the 31st minute, forced Ollie Gotskalksson, the Hibs keeper, to turn it around the post. Aberdeen, however, would not be denied and Newell finally gave the home side the lead five minutes before half time. Glass was again the source of the danger, his low cross finding Newell, who controlled the ball with his thigh, then drilled in a low shot on the turn from six yards.
Newell should have increased Aberdeen's advantage in the 50th minute, latching on to a fine pass from Brian O'Neil to outpace the Hibs defence. The burly striker held off his marker Willie Miller and sensibly tried to cut the ball back into the path of Jess, but the pass lacked the accuracy for his partner to profit.
Jess, however, did punish Hibs seven minutes later, when he struck with consummate ease after a free-kick from his midfield colleague Ilian Kiriakov dropped over the head of the floundering Shaun Dennis and Jess buried his shot in the back of the net from 10 yards.
Aberdeen plunged a further dagger into Hibs' heart when Joe Miller made it three in the 59th minute. A superb through-ball from Michael O'Neill dropped at the feet of the little winger, who stabbed it past the keeper and squeezed the ball in at the near post.