Hibs dealt Celtic a major blow in the SPL title race as they secured their first victory at Celtic Park for 13 years.
Tony Mowbray’s men boosted their own hopes of securing third-place and ensuring European football with the win, which didn’t flatter them.
Celtic had beaten Old Firm rivals Rangers at Ibrox the week before to extend the gap at the top of the table to five points, and with Rangers not playing until the Sunday, they were eager to make it eight.
The Parkhead faithful’s sense of expectation was tainted a little with the news before kick-off that Craig Bellamy, Chris Sutton and Didier Agathe were all out.
Even so, few Celtic fans would have expected to see their side go behind for the third home match in a row, as Hibs followed the recent examples of Aberdeen and Hearts by snatching an early lead after just seven minutes.
Striker Derek Riordan started the move with a clever back-heel deep in his own half to send Scott Brown down the left wing where he found the overlapping Garry O’Connor on the edge of the box. O’Connor still had plenty to do, but he cut inside defender Stanislav Varga with ease and then drilled a low shot past goalkeeper David Marshall from just inside the box.
Home defender Bobo Balde squandered a glorious opportunity to level in the 18th minute after Steven Whittaker had conceded a free-kick for a clumsy foul on Joos Valgaeren.
Alan Thompson swung in the cross and the Hibs defence gave Balde a free header, but he completely missed the ball.
The visitors looked threatening on the break and Antonio Murray tested Marshall with a low drive in the 29th minute, but the youngster saved comfortably under pressure.
Celtic were given a let off at the start of the second half when Amadou Konte got behind the home defence and his left-foot shot was deflected just wide of defender Valgaeren.
Moments later the home side had Marshall to thank for denying the visitors a second goal after Neil Lennon had gifted away possession.
Riordan gathered the loose ball and tried to lob the keeper from outside the box, but the Scotland keeper leapt and threw his hand up to touch the ball just past the upright.
Despite their dominance, Hibs were pegged back as Celtic hauled themselves level thanks to Craig Beattie on the hour. Stilian Petrov clipped the ball into the box following a short corner from Thompson and the striker pounced on Varga’s knockdown to drive a right-foot volley past Simon Brown from six yards.
The Hibs goalkeeper would soon have a chance to redeem himself, however, as he dived to his left to brilliantly stop a glancing header from John Hartson that had seemed almost certain to give the home team the lead.
Substitute Sproule became the hero with 11 minutes remaining for the Hibees, when he pounced on fellow replacement Sam Morrow’s through ball to fire under the body of Marshall.
The onus was on Celtic to push for an equaliser, but the visitors grabbed another to seal the win as Brown took Murray’s long ball in his path and coolly chipped Marshall to spark wild celebrations in front of the visiting support.
Hibs: Brown, Whittaker, Murray, Caldwell, Smith, Brown, Murray, Glass, Riordan, O’Connor, Konte.