A goal just five minutes from time by Motherwell substitute Henri Anier consigned Hibs to defeat on the opening weekend of the new Scottish Premiership.
Goalkeeper Ben Williams had just kept Pat Fenlon’s side in the match with two great saves in the space of a minute to deny John Sutton and then Stephen McManus only to see those efforts count for nothing as the Fir Park players celebrated.
Stuart McCall’s side, though, had Lee Hollis to thank for giving them that platform, the goalkeeper moving smartly to push aside a netbound volley from Scott Robertson in a match which had looked destined to end in stalemate until that late strike from Anier.
Hibs fans were given their first look at new signings Michael Nelson and James Collins, the pair fitting in at either end of the pitch, the ex-Bradford City man lining up alongside Paul Hanlon in central defence while the former Swindon Town striker was asked to fulfil the role of lone front man.
The Easter Road outfit, still smarting from their Europa League hammering at the hands of Malmo, began brightly, forcing three corners in quick succession, none of which caused any more than a momentary flutter in the Motherwell ranks.
But as the game wore on, the Fir Park outfit enjoyed much of the possession without creating any real openings, the save Williams made in leaping to his left to clutch Keith Lasley’s shot more for the cameras than anything else.
Other than that, neither goalkeeper had a save to make in the opening 45 minutes as the visitors snuffed out any threat of being hit on the counter-attack with Collins too often finding himself isolated with his nearest team-mate 20, 30 or even 40 yards away.
There was a bit more incident in the opening minutes of the second half, Bob McHugh getting himself on the end of James McFadden’s cutback only to trundle the ball into Williams’ arms before Shaun Hutchison’s foul on Collins presented Hibs midfielder Liam Craig with the opportunity to test Motherwell goalkeeper Hollis. Again, though, the effort was tame and the goalkeeper untroubled.
Collins was presented with his first half-chance when Hibs worked the ball wide right for Fraser Mullen to deliver a driven cross which the striker managed to get his head to but was unable to direct on target.
Hibs almost went ahead in the 63rd minute as the ball spun high in the air after Collins’ shot was blocked, dropping invitingly for Robertson, who took it on the volley 20 yards out only to see Hollis push his effort wide.
Williams may have been a virtual spectator for much of the second half but he pulled off two fantastic saves in the space of a minute to keep Hibs level, diving full length to touch Sutton’s low shot aside and then, from Ian Vigurs’ corner pushing McManus’ point-blank header over.
Those saves, however, counted for nothing as Hutchison’s powerful header from deep found Anier racing through the centre, the forward steadying himself before placing the ball inside Williams’ right-hand post.
Hibs: Williams, Mullen, Nelson, Hanlon, Stevenson, Tudur Jones, Thomson, Harris (Stanton 70), Robertson, Craig, Collins. Substitutes not used: Murdoch, McGivern, Maybury, Handling, Taiwo, Caldwell.
Motherwell: Hollis, Ramsden, Hutchinson, McManus, Hammell, McFadden (Angol-Francis 70), Lawson (Carswell 75), Lasley, Vigurs, Sutton, McHugh (Anier 70). Substitutes not used: Nielsen, Cummins, Kerr, Erwin.