A LATE penalty from captain Liam Craig earned Hibs all three points in the New Year derby at Easter Road.
James Collins had given Hibs the lead on the hour but the home side only managed to hold onto it for ten minutes before sub David Smith stabbed home at the second attempt.
Just when it looked like Hearts would steal a share of the spoils, though, Jordan McGhee brought Lewis Stevenson down inside the box and Craig stepped up to slot home the winner.
Hibs had been desperate for all three points in this one after losing their previous two clashes - in both the Premiership and League Cup - to Hearts and the opening stages were played out at an absolutely frantic pace.
Easter Road boss Terry Butcher has told his side to shoot on sight and the evidence was there for all to see in the opening stages as Liam Craig, Scott Robertson and Ryan McGivern all had a go inside the opening five minutes.
Ben Williams had to pull off a decent save to keep Hearts out in 13 minutes though, the Hibs keeper tipping Callum Tapping’s angled effort round his left-hand post and away for a corner that came to nothing.
Hibs came even closer five minutes later when Craig floated a free kick deep into the area. Jordan Forster was there to meet it and his header was a good one, only for it to bounce the off the crossbar with Macdonald looking beaten.
Scott Robinson was booked with half an hour gone when he upended Jason Cummings just outside the box. Hibs were awarded the free-kick, which Craig took, but Michael Nelson was just a few inches away from connecting at the far post.
Cummings worked hard throughout and carved out a chance for his side with a great pass to Stevenson. The ball eventually fell to Craig, who seemed to mis-hit the ball, but it was almost a good one as Cummings jumped to reach it before the Hearts defenders and Macdonald had to be on his toes to push the youngster’s header away.
Stevenson, for the second game in a row, was in fine form throughout the first half and continued in the same vein after the break. He played Collins in and raced through to collect the return, but his shot was just over Macdonald’s crossbar.
Ryan Stevenson was booked for Hearts six minutes into the second half for a foul on Nelson.
Hibs broke forward just before the hour when Cairney cut out a Hearts attack and raced up the pitch. He tried to make it to the byline box but Forster got there first, only to see his shot deflected wide.
The hone side finally made the breakthrough in 60 minutes when Craig’s corner was knocked down by Nelson and Collins was there to head home.
The goal almost raised the roof, almost as much in relief as celebration.
Hearts should have levelled within the spacve of a couple of minutes when Brad McKay got himself on the end of an inswinging corner from Kevin McHattie but his powerful header was just wide.
But sub David Smith, who had come on to replace Callum Tapping just five minutes earlier, did draw his side level with 20 minutes to go when he saw his first attempt spilled by Williams and he rammed the ball into the net from his second attempt.
With nine minutes remaining Hibs were awarded a penalty when Brad Mckay brought Stevenson down inside the area.
The tackle seemed a poor one because Stevenson had played the ball too far in front of him, but it didn’t matter to those in the stands.
Skipper Craig took the responsibility and calmly slotted into the bottom right-hand corner of the net to claim the victory, with Macdonald diving in the opposite direction.
Hibs: Williams; Forster, Nelson, Hanlon, McGivern; Cairney, Robertson, Craig, Stevenson; Cummings, Collins. Subs: Murdoch, Tudur Jones, Maybury, Handling, Heffernan, Stanton, Zoubir.
Hearts: Macdonald, Hamill, McKay, McGowan; Tapping, Hamill, Robinson, Walker; Paterson, Stevenson. Subs: Hamilton, Smith, Carrick, B King, A King, Nicholson
Referee: Bobby Madden