Hibs added a vital ingredient to their already heady brew of youth and precocious talent, this victory their fifth in six matches under then-manager Tony Mowbray.
The result lifted Hibs proudly up to third in the SPL table after this post-Christmas clash, a point ahead of Aberdeen and, more importantly to the near 5000 green-and-white army which descended upon Tannadice, nine in front of rivals, Hearts, who they would draw 1-1 with at Easter Road the next again week.
It was only when the home side were forced to start chasing the game that Hibs took control and they could have ended up even more convincing winners had it not been for a couple of outstanding saves from goalkeeper Tony Bullock.
If Hibs thought it was going to be easy given United’s predicament – the Terrors languishing at the foot of the table with just three victories to their name – they were given an early warning that wouldn’t be the case, Derek McInnes feeding striker Jason Scotland who cleverly turned away from Gary Caldwell before lashing a left-foot shot high into the net behind Simon Brown after eight minutes.
United, however, had displayed a profligacy in defence which reflected the fact that they were rooted to the foot of the table after this encounter.
And keeper Bullock and his defenders stood looking at each other just five minutes later when winger Alen Orman whipped in a cross and Derek Riordan dived to head home his 12th goal of the season.
Soon after, Garry O’Connor drove an angled shot from close range just over the bar.
Then, former Hibs skipper Grant Brebner saw his chip from 25 yards float onto the top of the net, before Mark Kerr’s drive from the edge of the box drew a fine save from visiting goalkeeper Brown.
The United defence could do little to prevent Hibs taking the lead with a breathtaking move initiated by former United youngster Ian Murray who charged out of defence before slipping the ball forward to O’Connor. He immediately delivered it wide left to David Murphy, a touch back to Riordan and a chip into the box allowing Orman to chest it down into the path of O’Connor who lashed the ball high into the net from 12 yards.
Striker Jim McIntyre could easily have been a United hero but missed two chances to equalise in quick succession and instead was cast in the role of sinner as he put his head to an aimless cross from Dean Shiels, succeeding only in causing confusion in the heart of his defence and Orman took advantage as he headed over the line.
Steven Whittaker’s tenacity led to Hibs’ fourth, the right-back dispossessing Barry Robson on the halfway line before winning a tackle with Alan Archibald to set youngster Sam Morrow on his way for his first goal for the club.
Hibs: Brown, Whittaker, Caldwell, Murray, Murphy, Shiels, Orman, Rocastle, Glass, O’Connor, Riordan.