Hibs enjoyed their second win in a row at Easter Road, a deserved three points against Motherwell, to keep league leaders Celtic and Rangers in their sights.
The Hibees sat in third place behind the Old Firm, but level on points with Rangers, although the Ibrox club had a game in hand.
Their good form in the first quarter of Scottish Premier League matches has been due, in part, to the performances of goalkeeper Graham Stack.
The home support, therefore, would not have been too pleased to hear that he had failed to shake off a back injury and Yves Ma-Kalambay would be back between the sticks. Yet the big Belgian had a good first half and made a superb save just before the break when Steven Saunders headed a Ross Forbes’ free-kick goalbound, and had saved well from the same player earlier in the game.
The match took a while to warm up, with Hibs’ opening play characterised by some slack passing and Motherwell rather deliberate in their play.
Colin Nish had a header go over John Ruddy’s bar, the big striker connecting with Derek Riordan’s corner, and the provider himself had a shot from 20 yards that Ruddy saved comfortably.
Former Sunderland striker Anthony Stokes passed up a chance to put the home side ahead after 23 minutes, but he miss-hit his shot from the penalty spot and it trundled just a few yards, allowing Mark Reynolds to clear.
A purposeful run by Ian Murray fed Merouane Zemmama, who laid the ball off for John Rankin who curled a shot from 25 yards that Ruddy parried.
Buoyed by that stop, Ruddy then saved a clever chip from Riordan as John Hughes’ side continued to dominate possession.
The breakthrough for the Easter Road men was a painful one for the visitors, who claimed Stokes was offside when Riordan knocked the ball over the Motherwell defence.
However, the Irishman ignored Well’s appeals, as did referee Iain Brines, to slot the ball past Ruddy from 12 yards for his fifth goal of the season.
In an untidy opening to the second half, Hibs went two ahead in 55 minutes. A peripheral figure for most of the game, Zemmama showed a nice bit of skill to set up Stokes and the former Sunderland striker’s shot was deflected into the net by Nish.
Hibs’ creative players continued to pose problems running at the visitors, with Riordan shooting straight at Ruddy before Zemmama placed the ball wide after impressive footwork inside the box.
Jamie Murphy was booked harshly for diving by Brines midway through the half when he was brought down by a sliding challenge from Sol Bamba inside the box.
Ma-Kalambay had very little to do in the second period, but he maintained his focus to save from Moutaouakil in injury time.
Hibs: Ma-Kalambay, Wotherspoon, Hogg, Bamba, Murray, Zemmama, Rankin, Miller, Nish, Riordan, Stokes.