John McGinn’s fifth goal of the season was enough to give Hibs a much-needed win but, again, it was a match which should have been decided by much more than that single strike.
McGinn claimed the only goal at Dens Park in the 52nd minute, wheeling to drill home a low shot as the Dundee defence stood transfixed.
But the profligacy Neil Lennon’s players have shown throughout this season was again on display, Brandon Barker twice failing to take advantage of clear openings while both Simon Murray and Martin Boyle contrived to miss a low cross from substitute Danny Swanson to allow the travelling fans breathe that little bit easier.
And, at the end of the day, the Capital outfit had a stunning save from goalkeeper Ofir Marciano to thank for the three points, the Israeli internationalist throwing himself low to his right to push away a netbound header from Dundee midfielder Mark O’Hara.
The knee injury picked up by Marvin Bartley in Sunday’s derby kept him out, one of two changes made by Lennon, the other being the replacing of teenage striker Oli Shaw with Simon Murray while Barker was also drafted into the starting line-up.
Despite Lennon’s teasing that Anthony Stokes “might” be in the squad after he’d returned to training on Tuesday, there was, unsurprisingly, not even a spot on the bench for the Irishman thus strengthening the view there’s no longer a place for him at Easter Road.
Hibs resumed Premiership action after the winter break sitting fourth in the table despite having won just two of their previous nine league matches and, with trips to Celtic Park and Ibrox looming in the following ten days, they’d have pitched up at Dens Park knowing victory over tenth-placed Dundee was imperative.
With that in mind, Lennon went with an attack-minded formation, Boyle and Barker positioned to stretch the Tayside club’s back four on the flanks with McGinn powering forward in the middle of the park in support of Dundee-born Murray.
As such, Neil McCann’s players found themselves pinned down inside their own territory for much of the opening 15 minutes only to be the first to create an opening, O’Hara’s ball flashed across by Jesse Curran for Faissal El Bakhtaoui to test Marciano down at his right-hand post.
Hibs went just as close when Efe Ambrose’s cross found Murray at the back post, the striker only denied his 15th goal of the season by Cammy Kerr’s block.
Both sides were intent in getting the ball down and passing it – without finding a team-mate on every occasion – in what was an open match.
If Hibs’ inability to turn possession and chances created into goals has been well chronicled, Dundee have suffered even more, McCann’s players having found the net just 23 times in their previous 22 Premiership matches.
The sight of midfielder Paul McGowan rising unopposed to meet Jon Aurtenetxe’s cross only to send a glancing header wide perhaps provided a clue as to what lay behind that miserable statistic.
McCann, though, would have been happy enough in that his side had got over a nervy-looking start, Aurtenetxe holding Marciano’s interest with a rising shot which the Israeli internationalist saw over his crossbar.
Hibs. on the other hand, again looked toothless, not one shot on target in the opening 45 minutes despite having, once more, enjoyed the bulk of possession and forcing eight corners to their opponents’ two.
The Edinburgh side were needing to get Barker on the ball more often to exploit his explosive turn of pace but the on-loan Manchester City winger was proving to be a somewhat peripheral figure.
Lennon’s players did, finally, manage a shot on target and with it the opening goal of the game, Lithuanian internationalist Vykintas Slivka cutting the ball back for Murray who, despite slipping with his back to goal, managed to work it to McGinn, who took advantage of hesitancy in the Dundee ranks to spin and rifle a low, left foot shot beyond goalkeeper Elliott Parish.
Barker managed to cut loose for once but, with Dundee skipper Kerr trying to impede him, he only managed to put his parting shot into the side-netting rather than give his side the cushion of a second goal.
And it took another outstanding save from Marciano to keep Hibs level as O’Hara rose to meet another Aurtenetxe cross from the left, sending the ball back across the goalkeeper only to see him get down to his right to push his header round the post.
Barker had an even better chance to push Hibs further ahead as he outstripped the home defence to leave himself with only Parish to beat but the goalkeeper spread himself well to block his low shot.
McGinn, having been booked for a foul on El Bakhtaoui, could count himself a touch lucky to escape with no further punishment when he clattered into Glen Kamara, a challenge which left the home fans screaming for a second yellow for the Scotland midfielder.
Dundee, by this time, had thrown on former Hibs playmaker Scott Allan in a bid to salvage at least a point which they probably felt they more than deserved and Kerr stung the palms of Marciano with a rising shot as the home side again threatened.
Hibs had paid the penalty more than once this season for not killing teams off when the chance arose and they were guilty, not for the first time even in this match, of failing to do so again.
Swanson had only been on the park for a matter for minutes having replaced Barker when he chased down Kerr as he attempted to track the ball down the line, the Hibs midfielder winning the tussle and supplying an inviting low cross which somehow eluded both Murray and then Boyle.
One of three players carpeted for stepping out of line during Hibs’ winter break in Portugal, Swanson looked keen to use this opportunity to atone somewhat for his part, another glimpse of his touchline wizardry creating the opportunity to play the ball in for fellow substitute Jamie Maclaren.
But the Australian internationalist had strayed offside and so his chance to mark his first few minutes in a green-and-white shirt with a goal had gone.
As the minutes ticked by, Dundee’s efforts became ever more frantic and Murray had two opportunities within seconds to end it as a contest, but both efforts from a tight angle found the legs of goalkeeper Parish.
Dundee (4-4-1-1): Parish; Kerr, Meekings, Hendry, Aurtenetxe (Holt 78); Curran (Allan 58), Kamara, McGowan, O’Hara; El Bakhtaoui (Henvey 83); Leitch-Smith. Unused subs: Malherbe, O’Dea, Wolters, Extabeguren.
Hibs (4-1-4-1): Marciano; Ambrose, McGregor, Hanlon, Stevenson; McGeouch; Boyle (Maclaren 82), Slivka, McGinn, Barker (Swanson 78), S Murray (Shaw 89). Unused subs: Dabrowski, Porteous, Rherras, F Murray.
Referee: D Robertson.