There was some intrigue at Easter Road before a ball had been kicked with Hibs boss Bobby Williamson pressing for Grant Brebner to be given some international recognition.
He didn’t do his international prospects any good, however, when he was sent off after only being on the pitch for three minutes.
Williamson had promptly dropped the midfielder after he gave him praise during the week and he was only given the last five minutes to stake his claim for a Scotland spot. By this time Motherwell were already down to ten men, having had Daniel Sengewald sent off for two bookable challenges. These were relatively innocuous, however, compared to the full-scale rammy that followed a scything Stephen Pearson challenge on Ian Murray.
As Dougie McDonald brandished the red card at Pearson, David Partridge appeared to throw a punch at Brebner, after being apparently goaded by the Hibs midfielder. The other players got involved and all hell promptly broke loose. It was a dramatic end to what had been a fairly ordinary game.
Hibs should have been three or four up after a first half which they utterly dominated, appearing to be enjoying a numerical advantage in every area. However, when the home side failed to convert any of their chances their opponents slowly crept back into the game and the first half developed eventually into a more evenly-matched affair.
Motherwell’s Steven Ferguson had perhaps the best chance, when a kind break set him up for a crack at goal on the edge of the box. When he hesitated, however, he had the shot charged down.
Perhaps Terry Butcher managed to instil some confidence and assuredness in his striker at half time, because he reacted well when presented with another shot at goal to take the lead for the visitors two minutes into the second half. Derek Adams played a high ball that seemed to cause confusion between Hibs keeper Nick Colgan and Yannick Zambernardi, his defender. Between them, up popped Ferguson to head over the on-rushing Colgan.
Motherwell had themselves to blame with an incident which turned the match 11 minutes after the re-start when Sengewald was ordered off.
A Hibs goal seemed inevitable, and it finally came a few minutes later, when a Murray cross was simply converted by Mixu Paatelainen. They were on a roll, and McManus added a second after 63 minutes, when he connected with a Paatelainen header at the far post.
It was cruel luck on Motherwell, but it was impossible to imagine them clawing their way back. Instead there was only frustration, which bubbled over in the closing minutes and was compounded by a third Hibs goal after John O’Neil had been brought down. The captain himself stepped up to stroke the penalty home with virtually the last kick of the game.