A STUNNING injury-time strike from Alim Ozturk kept Hearts’ unbeaten record intact as the Gorgie outfit snatched a point from Capital neighbours Hibs.
After Dominique Malonga’s first-half goal and with Hearts reduced to ten men for the final 11 minutes of the match when Callum Paterson was shown a straight red card for a lunge on the Easter Road striker, the home side looked on track for victory.
But Ozturk stepped out from defence to unleash a tremendous shot from 35 yards which dipped in flight and crashed in off the underside of the bar to send the Hearts fans behind that goal into ecstasy.
It was a strike well worth a point but Hibs would feel that this was a game they allowed to slip through their fingers given they’d been the better team and had created more chances.
Both teams had made just one change, Hibs welcoming back Liam Fontaine, who replaced Callum Booth in central defence, a move mirrored by Hearts with skipper Danny Wilson shaking off his hamstring problem to take over from Jordan McGhee.
The Hearts end was packed but Easter Road was far from full as the second Edinburgh derby of the season got underway, the early stages a cagey affair although Paul Hanlon needed to put in a timely block to halt Prince Buaben as the visitors carried the first threat.
Thereafter, though, Alan Stubbs side belied the 14-point gap between them and the Championship leaders, Malonga’s touch taking Scott Allan’s pass off the toes of Danny Handling as Hibs caused Hearts their first moment of worry.
There was another straight away, Allan and Handling again combining for the latter to fire in a rising shot which goalkeeper Neil Alexander could only parry up into the air. But Alexander should have been beaten in the 24th minute when a dreadful mix-up between him and Wilson as to who should take charge of a simple through ball. The hesitation allowed Jason Cummings to nick in between them, the ball falling for Malonga who, with the goal at his mercy, appeared to panic and fired wide when he had both the time and space to walk it into the empty net.
Hearts may have had far fewer opportunities but a side boasting 31 goals can’t be ignored and Soufian El Hassnaoui passed up a glorious chance to open the scoring against the run of play when Hanlon misjudged Paterson’s long ball forward, leaving the Dutch-Moroccan striker with only Mark Oxley to beat. But the on-loan Hull City keeper was up to the task, standing tall to beat the shot away.
And Malonga made amends for that earlier miss when he gave Hibs the lead in the 44th minute. Fontaine’s downward header from Allan’s corner was taken in by team-mate Cummings, who swivelled and hit a shot which was going in the bottom corner before Billy King cleared. Alexander then tried to get something on the ball but succeeded only in knocking it into the path of Malonga, who wasted no time in hammering it high into the roof of the net.
Buaben was only inches away from conceding a penalty three minutes into the second half as he brought down Allan, the opportunity wasted as Malonga, who had earlier sent a glancing header wide, crashed the resulting free-kick into the defensive wall in front of him.
Hearts then began to exert a bit of pressure Adam Eckersely firing a low ball across the Hibs penalty area and only just out of the reach of Paterson before substitute Jamie Walker drilled in a dangerous cross which the home side managed to scramble away for a corner. Buaben then drove into the danger area only to see his cross-cum-shot go wide of the target.
King totally mis-kicked as he attempted to get on the end of another Paterson cross as Hearts turned the screw, Hibs finding themselves camped deep inside their own territory as Robbie Neilson’s players sought desperately for a way through that sea of green shirts.
But their worries deepened when Paterson was sent off for a foolish challenge on Malonga, lunging in from behind when he had no chance of getting the ball.
And, just as it looked as if Hibs were to become the first team to beat Hearts this season, forward stepped Ozturk with that fantastic equaliser.
Hibs: Oxley, Gray, Hanlon, Fontaine, Stevenson, McGeouch, Roberton, S Allan (Harris 71), Handling (Stanton 71), Cummings (Kennedy 83), Malonga. Substitutes not used: Perntreou, Craig, Heffernan, Booth.
Hearts: Alexander, Paterson, Ozturk, Wilson (McGhee 57), Eckersley, King (Buchanan 86), Gomis, Buaben, Nicholson, Sow, El Hassnaoui (Walker 55). Substitutes not used: Hamilton, McHattie, Holt, Pallardo.
Referee: Bobby Madden.