Rangers kept up their chase for the Champions League by coming back three times to take a point at Easter Road.
Charlie Adam levelled after Steven Fletcher opened the scoring on 20 minutes, and Kevin McCann’s first goal for Hibs made it 2-1 at the interval. Alan Hutton equalised with a superb goal to make it 2-2, only for Steven Whittaker to force Hibs ahead on 62. Adam responded again with a set-piece, before Hibs’ midfielder Guillaume Beuzelin was red-carded at the end.
Hibs manager John Collins decided to make five changes after the shock of midweek Scottish Cup semi-final elimination against Dunfermline Athletic. Captain Rob Jones, David Murphy and the suspended Scott Brown dropped out of the squad while Ivan Sproule and Damon Gray had to be content with places on the bench. Shelton Martis, McCann, Dean Shiels, Ross Chisholm and Fletcher all came into the starting line-up.
Rangers boss Walter Smith made minimal changes, with Nacho Novo and Charlie Adam replacing the unwell Dado Prso and Gavin Rae, who dropped to the bench.
The Hibees were enthusiastic in the early periods with Fletcher and Dean Shiels seeing a lot of the possession. But Rangers caught sight of the first real chance in the fifth minute when Ugo Ehiogu blasted a shot over the bar from 16 yards from Kevin Thomson’s corner. Whittaker swiftly replied at the other end, drilling a shot over the bar from Chisholm’s deep cross.
The busy Whittaker was giving the Light Blues no end of concern, and Hibs’ pressure paid dividends when Fletcher coolly slotted the ball under Allan McGregor from 12 yards after latching on to Benjelloun’s pass.
Yet, just as the home fans were hoping the breakthrough could be consolidated, Rangers replied against the run of play. Adam stepped up, firing in a free-kick from the side of the box, with goalkeeper McNeil slow to react.
It was an open, entertaining contest throughout the first half, perhaps surprising given the Edinburgh club’s recent run of form. The contest lost some momentum as both sides, particularly the Ibrox men, tried to shore up their defences. French midfielder Beuzelin was deployed as a centre-back by Collins and the hosts were content to play the ball around patiently.
And it was no real surprise when Hibs resorted their slender lead in first-half injury-time. Chisholm took a corner, finding McCann and, with the visitors failing to close him down, he drilled an unstoppable shot high into the corner of the net from 25 yards.
Rangers rallied after the interval, and their persistence and extra energy paid off with a sublime equaliser. It was a move which began from deep inside their own half, with a reverse pass from Barry Ferguson, finding Novo. The impish Spaniard found Hutton charging up the flank, and the full-back kept his composure and clipped the ball over the advancing McNeil.
Nonetheless, Hibs kept their composure and contined to play the flowing football that had served them well earlier, and rattled Rangers by going ahead once more.
Whittaker – one of Hibs’ best performers all afternoon – struck a superb half-volley, with McGregor unable to do anything as the ball sailed past him into the corner of the net.
Rangers continued to show superb spirit however, and, in an almost identical set-piece to the one he scored on his last visit to Easter Road against Simon Brown, Adam equalised, curving the ball over the wall into the net.
Beuzelin, who had a good game at centre-half, was out of luck at the end as he was shown a straight red in injury time for felling Kris Boyd as he raced down on goal.
Hibs: McNeil, McCann (Lynch 76), Hogg, Martis, Stevenson, Whittaker, Beuzelin, Chisholm, Shiels (Sproule 63), Fletcher, Benjelloun. Subs Not Used: Simon Brown, Ayre, Gray, Zemmama, Campbell.
Rangers: McGregor, Hutton, Ehiogu, Weir, Papac, Novo, Hemdani (Burke 71), Thomson, Adam, Ferguson, Boyd. Subs Not Used: Klos, Murray, Rae, Sionko, Lennon, Shinnie.
Ref: C Richmond.