Hibs’ hopes of a top-two finish in the Scottish Premiership were ended after they were defeated by fired-up Hearts at Tynecastle.
The Easter Road side realistically needed at least a point from the fifth and final Edinburgh derby of the season to keep themselves in contention for second or third place. However, Steven Naismith’s second-half header secured all three points for the sixth-place hosts after Florian Kamberi’s penalty had cancelled out Kyle Lafferty’s opener. Hibs now need to defeat Rangers by six goals at Easter Road on Sunday in order to secure third spot and guarantee themselves an automatic Europa League place, otherwise they will be reliant on Celtic defeating Motherwell in the Scottish Cup final.
Hearts’ top scorer Lafferty was fit enough to start despite being rendered doubtful in the build-up but John Souttar missed out with a hamstring problem. David Milinkovic returned to the side for only his second appearance in more than two months. Influential Hibs midfielder Dylan McGeouch, wearing a protective mask due to a facial injury, again started on the bench.
The visitors threatened after quarter of an hour when Brandon Barker saw a shot from the edge of the box saved by Jon McLaughlin. There was a flare-up three minutes later when Lafferty caught Lewis Stevenson late on the edge of the box and the Northern Irishman ended up being yellow-carded.
Hearts had a penalty claim in the 25th minute when Steven Naismith went down in the box as he burst on to a Michael Smith pass, but play was waved on. The Tynecastle side made the breakthrough a minute later when Lafferty nipped in to prod home from eight yards after being set up by Naismith.
Harry Cochrane went close to a second in the 35th minute when he powered his way forward before seeing a shot from the edge of the box well saved by Ofir Marciano.
At the other end, Barker cut in from the left and saw a fizzing shot from the edge of the box tipped away brilliantly by McLaughlin. Cochrane then saw an effort deflected behind after good work by Danny Amankwaa and David Milinkovic to set him up.
Hibs were forced into a change four minutes before the break when Martin Boyle went down injured and had to be replaced by Dylan McGeouch. As a result, they started the second half in a 3-5-2 formation, with Steven Whittaker, who had been anchoring midfield in a 4-2-3-1 before the break, moving out to right wing-back.
The Easter Road side got themselves level within three minutes of the restart when Joaquim Adao tripped Stevenson on the left side of the penalty area and Florian Kamberi stepped up to confidently convert his spot-kick.
Hibs had their tails up and looked the likelier side to get the next goal, but it was Hearts who regained the lead in the 57th minute when Cochrane’s free-kick was glanced in by Naismith.
Hibs rarely looked like forcing an equaliser thereafter apart from a close-range effort from Kamberi that went high and wide in stoppage time.
Hearts (4-1-4-1): McLaughlin; Smith, Hughes, Berra, Mitchell; Adao; Milinkovic (McDonald 89), Cochrane (Callachan 84), Naismith, Amankwaa (Cowie 68); Lafferty. Subs not used: Hamilton, Moore, Henderson, Hamilton. Booked: Lafferty (17)
Hibs (4-2-3-1): Marciano; Ambrose, McGregor, Hanlon (Maclaren 67), Stevenson; Whittaker, McGinn; Boyle (McGeouch 41), Allan (Slivka 78), Barker; Kamberi. Subs not used: Bell, Bartley, Swanson. Booked: Whittaker (53), McGregor (79).
Ref: Craig Thomson