Two towering headers in the space of four first-half minutes from Callum Paterson gave Hearts their fourth Edinburgh triumph of the season and drove Capital rivals Hibs closer to a relegation play-off battle.
Paterson rose to head home Billy King’s 37th minute corner and then repeated the trick by powering home Kevin McHattie’s free-kick. Jordon Forster hauled Hibs back into the match with 21 minutes remaining but it proved too little too late for Terry Butcher’s side as the 3800 Hearts fans at Easter Road again left for home celebrating wildly.
Butcher again rang the changes, Scott Robertson coming in for his first appearance since mid-January as he joined Liam Craig, Ryan McGivern and Jason Cummings in replacing Owain Tudur Jones, Danny Haynes, Lewis Stevenson and James Collins in the starting line-up.
There were changes too, for Hearts, skipper Danny Wilson back from suspension to take over in central defence from Brad McKay while Scott Robinson replaced the banned Jamie Hamill in midfield.
A minute’s applause marked the death of Hearts legend Sandy Jardine before kick-off with both sets of players wearing black armbands.
Hearts looked like a side unbeaten in their last four matches including the previous derby at Tynecastle. Gary Locke’s team beginning the match by dominating possession although unable to trouble Hibs goalkeeper Ben Williams in the opening quarter-of-an-hour.
As expected, there was an air of nervousness about both Butcher’s players and their supporters in a disappointingly low home crowd while the Hearts fans packed the goal behind Jamie MacDonald.
The Hibs fans, though, were lifted by a Sam Stanton cross which fizzed across MacDonald’s goal before Cummings got his head to a Craig cross only to see his glancing effort drop just wide of the goalkeeper’s left-hand post.
Hearts were continuing to see plenty of the ball, but again it was Hibs who went closer to scoring, Cummings’ low shot from, long-range pushed aside by MacDonald who had time to get to his feet to gather the ball before any of the striker’s team-mates could react.
Hibs were left ruing that moment when Hearts went ahead in the 37th minute. Billy King’s corner from their left found Paterson at the back post and the big defender nodded the ball down for it to loop up off the turf and beyond a bemused Williams.
And Paterson did it again four minutes later, Kevin McHattie swinging in a hotly disputed free-kick from the right to find his team-mate unmarked at the back post where he again got above Forster to direct his header down and into the net.
Hibs desperately needed the next goal and it almost came four minutes after the restart, Forster getting up to meet Craig’s corner only to see Robinson take his header off the line.
A Kevin Thomson shot was then deflected wide but Hearts survived that early onslaught and Kevin McHattie tested Williams with a powerful shot from 30 yards which the goalkeeper confidently clutched
MacDonald was equally confident when called into action by a Craig free-kick following a poor challenge by Robinson on Cummings, the goalkeeper this time going to his right to push the ball away.
But MacDonald was finally beaten in the 69th minute, Forster powering in to meet McGivern’s cross to send a thundering header into the net and give Hibs hope.
Time, though, was beginning to ebb away but James Collins had a wonderful opportunity to equalise five minutes from the end, the substitute taking a fresh-air shot barely four yards out after Craig had charged down McHattie’s clearance.
Ryan Stevenson should have wrapped it up for the Jambos in the final minute, allowed a clear run-in on Williams whom he beat with a clever chip only for the ball to go agonisingly wide of target.
And in the dying seconds of the six added minutes MacDonald pulled off a tremendous save from Collins, throwing himself high to his left to push the striker’s shot aside only to find it didn’t count as the flag had already gone up.
Hibs: Williams, Maybury, Nelson, Forster, McGivern, Robertson (Watmore 66), Thomson, Craig, Harris, Stanton, Cummings (Collins 72).
Substitutes not used: Murdoch, Boateng, L Stevenson, Tudur Jones, Handling.
Hearts: MacDonald, Paterson, McGowan, Wilson, McHattie, King (Walker 81), R Stevenson, Holt, Robinson, Carrick (McKay 88), Nicholson (Smith 57).
Substitutes not used: Ridgers, McCallum, Oliver, McGhee.
Referee: Boddy Madden.