Colin Calderwood secured his maiden victory as Hibs manager in the most memorable fashion imaginable on an incredible evening.
Rangers retained pole position in the SPL, but were stripped of the air of domestic invincibility they had enjoyed at Ibrox for 20 months.
After three straight defeats since succeeding John Hughes, the most lamentable of those coming in the weekend’s meek surrender at home to Hearts, Calderwood engineered a performance and result which would buy him plenty of credit among his new club’s followers.
The Easter Road men became the first team to defeat Rangers on their own patch in the SPL since Inverness Caledonian Thistle back in March 2009.
Although Rangers had threatened first, Mark Brown reacting smartly to touch Steven Naismith’s shot over the bar, it was Hibs who produced by far the more fluid and incisive football in a remarkable opening spell.
There was an element of freakishness to their first goal in the sixth minute, although goalscorer Liam Miller showed terrific skill to dupe Lee McCulloch and work himself into a shooting position some 25 yards out.
The Irish midfielder’s shot appeared to take a wicked swerve, possibly with the aid of the slightest deflection off Maurice Edu, totally deceiving Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor.
Hibs confounded any normal expectations of a team low on confidence, continuing to retain possession far more effectively than their hosts.
Ian Murray, one of four changes Calderwood made to his side in the wake of Sunday’s derby loss, returned to the team as captain in a holding midfield assignment in front of the back four.
There was a compact look to Hibs, Murray’s presence allowing Miller the freedom to probe in support of lone striker Valdas Trakys.
Scotland goalkeeper McGregor was left helpless when Hibs doubled their advantage in the 19th minute. It was a magnificently worked and sweetly finished goal. Murray’s clever through pass was dummied by Miller, allowing John Rankin to latch on to it. From just outside the penalty area, the midfielder struck a rasping right-foot shot high into the top left-hand corner of McGregor’s net.
As frustration grew among the home fans, the first half ended in further despair for Rangers as they had two players carried off on stretchers with what looked to be serious injuries. Edu was the first to depart, after seeming to twist his ankle in the turf, before Sasa Papac came off worst in an accidental clash of heads with Trakys. Vladimir Weiss and Kirk Broadfoot entered the fray.
It required a tremendous save by Brown to prevent Rangers making the perfect start to the second half. After Weiss had burst into space on the right, his low cutback found McCulloch in a crowded penalty area.
The midfielder struck his low shot with ferocious power, but Brown somehow managed to keep it out. Although Hibs were now being asked far more questions as a defensive unit, their levels of organisation and resilience remained impressive.
Sol Bamba, forming an imposing central partnership with Francis Dickoh, displayed admirable pace and diligence to make a terrific covering tackle on Miller as the Rangers striker sprinted on to a long through ball from Steven Whittaker.
Hibs looked increasingly capable of helping themselves to a third goal. McGregor denied them with a fine save to touch Ian Rankin’s rasping 25-yard shot over the bar, but only temporarily. From the corner, taken by Rankin from the left, Bamba headed towards the six-yard box where Dickoh twisted acrobatically and smashed a right-foot volley beyond McGregor.
Hibs: Brown, Hart, Dickoh, Bamba, Grounds, Murray, Wotherspoon, De Graaf, Miller, Rankin, Trakys.