Hibs brought their run of three successive defeats to an end with a narrow but merited win over ten-man Dumbarton, top scorer Jason Cummings’ 16th goal of the season enough to separate the sides and keep the Edinburgh club’s hopes of a second place finish alive.
Farid El Alagui, making his first start since the end of August after rupturing his Achilles tendon, passed up the chance to mark the occasion with a goal, the striker looking on in disbelief as Dumbarton goalkeeper Danny Rogers got a hand to his penalty, managing to turn it onto his left hand post.
And he enjoyed a slice of luck as the ball ran across his line and hit the other post before running to safety.
El Alagui would no doubt have been a relieved man to see Paul Hanlon power in to head home from Scott Allan’s corner but when Mark Oxley couldn’t hold Scott Taggart’s low shot, Mitch Megginsoin was there to rattle the rebound home.
Dumbarton were left to play the final 33 minutes a man short after Chris Turner reacted angrily – and stupidly to being fouled by Jordon Forster, headbutting the Hibs defender and leaving referee Craig Charleston with no option but to flash the red card.
And Hibs made his moment of madness count, Scott Allan’s presence of mind seeing him zip in to nick possession and turn the ball across goal for Cummings to apply the finishing touch.
Stubbs rang the changes after the latest disappointment against Queen of the South with Keith Watson, the victim of a hamstring injury, dropping out while Sam Stanton, Fraser Fyvie and Dominique Malonga dropped to the bench.
Those moves opened the way for long-term absentees El Alagui and Forster to return, the young defender was on from the first whistle for the first time since mid-October when, coincidentally, the Sons were the opposition at Easter Road.
Club captain Liam Craig hadn’t been absent quite so long but this, nevertheless, was his first start since March 11 against Livingston, as Stubbs went for a 3-5-2 formation.
The Easter Road outfit, however, made another cautious start, Scott Angew using that wand of a left foot to test Mark Oxley with an inswinging free-kick which the goalkeeper decided to take no chances over, opting to fist it clear rather than risk trying to clutch it.
A series of corners allowed Agnew to continue to threaten with his delivery, El Alagui forced to display his aerial prowess in his own penalty area to help his defence out.
Hibs, however, slowly took a grip, El Alagui ruled inches offside as he latched onto Scott Allan’s pass before powering a header over from Lewis Stevenson’s cross.
The Capital club thought they had taken the lead in the 23rd minute, Jason Cummings bundling home after Son goalkeeper Danny Rogers couldn’t hold El Alagui’s cutback but the ball had already run out of play before the Hibs striker had reached it.
El Alagui, though, should have given his side a 17th minute lead when Martin Boyle picked him out on the edge of Dumbarton’s six-yard box only for the hitman to blast high over the bar.
And El Alagui was presented with the perfect opportunity to score his first goal since a double against Dumbarton sparked that remarkable League Cup comeback against Ian Murray’s side early in the season when Turner bundled Craig to the ground.
The Hibs midfielder was heading away from goal but referee Craig Charleson had no doubt it was a penalty. El Alagui stepped up but goalkeeper Danny Rogers guessed right, diving low to his left to get a hand on the ball and deserving his touch of luck as it hit one post before it spun along the line and hit the other before bouncing to safety.
His blushes were spared, however, when Hanlon found space in a crowded six yard line to stoop to meet Scott Allan’s corner to bullet home a header just three minutes from half-time.
Allan fizzed a right footed shot inches wide on the restart but Hibs had Oxley to thank for keeping them ahead with three impressive saves in the space of a couple of minutes.
Lewis Stevenson was slack with a clearance, playing it straight to the feet of ex-Hibs player Scott Taggart who unleashed a first time shot from 25 yards, prompting the on-loan Hull City keeper to throw himself full length to his left before Taggart again tested him with another effort which was pushed aside.
Megginson pounced on the rebound to fire in a rising shot which Oxley clawed to safety. But having made those stops, Oxley blotted his copy book by failing to hold yet another low shot from Taggart, leaving Megginson to drill it past him and into the net.
But just two minutes later Dumbarton were reduced to ten men, Turner, who had earlier squared up to Craig, did so again after being fouled by Forster. However, this time he took it further, throwing his head into the face of the Hibs defender, leaving referee Charleston with no option but to send him off while Forster picked up a yellow for his part in the incident.
Hibs had suddenly become a nervous bunch, Mark Gilhaney finding space just outside their penalty area to deliver the ball into the feet of goalscorer Megginson who, this time, fired inches over.
But just as the travelling support were imploring Stubbs’ players to make their numerical superiority count, they did just that, Allan showing terrific awareness to nip in and nick possession inside Dumbarton’s penalty area, turning the ball across goal for Cummings to apply the simplest of finishes from six yards.
Hibs appeared eager to get that two goal cushion, El Alagui taking down Cummings’ cross before moving to his right and delivering a shot which whistled past the post with Rogers flat-footed before Allan sent one fizzing over the bar.
Allan’s vision presented El Alagui with another fantastic opportunity for a goal but again he was left shaking his head in disbelief as his shot rolled agonisingly wide of the target with Rogers again left spectating.
Fraser Fyvie, a half-time replacement for Scott Robertson, was next to try his luck but he enjoyed no better luck, his shot missing by some way, his claims it had taken even the slightest of touches off a defender falling on deaf ears.
It was becoming a one-way procession towards Rogers’ goal although Hibs couldn’t afford to lose concentration and fall victim to a sucker punch. The Sons goalkeeper kept it that way, diving on the ball after he’d been unable to hold Craig’s shot, beating El Alagui to it by inches.
And three minutes into added on time, Rogers arm prevented Malonga adding a third, his touch enough to divert the ball onto the far post.