Hibs staged a storming second-half comeback to dump Aberdeen and climb into fifth place in the SPL following a pulsating 90 minutes at Easter Road.
The Dons had come off the back of a fine 2-2 Uefa Cup draw at home to European heavyweights Bayern Munich, but having completely dominating the opening 45 minutes, the home side sparked a fine comeback to make it back-to-back league wins for the first time in almost five motnhs.
Hibs goalkeeper Yves Ma-Kalambay was called into action within the opening two minutes, the gigantic Belgian Under-21 internationalist throwing himself low to his right to push Scott Severin’s shot round the post.
And it was clear Ma-Kalambay was in for a busy afternoon as he succeeded only in pushing out a cross from Chris Maguire before redeeming himself by blocking Jeffrey De Visscher’s shot from the rebound.
Mixu Paatelainen’s side, however, were being totally over-run in midfield by a Dons side rampant after their performance in midweek and they deservedly took the lead in the 18th minute although Zander Diamond’s strike was due to some woeful defending.
De Visscher’s corner broke off Colin Nish and as he and skipper Rob Jones hesitated the big Aberdeen defender stepped in to hammer home the loose ball.
Hibs were lucky not to fall further behind four minutes later as Sone Aluko opened up their defence, the ball spinning high in the air as Jones and Lee Miller challenged for it at the near post. Chris Hogg managed to get his head to it only to direct it towards his own goal. Thankfully for him, though, Ma-Kalambay stretched to touch it onto the bar for Abdel Zarabi to complete the clearance.
Ma-Kalambay blocked a low angled shot from Alan Maybury with his legs to ensure Hibs headed up the tunnel at the break just a goal behind, their only effort on target throughout the opening 45 minutes an effort from Dean Shiels which was easily taken by goalkeeper Jamie Langfield.
Incredibly, however, given their dismal first-half performance, Hibs rattled Aberdeen with two quick goals immediately after the interval. Referee Charlie Richmond ruled Nish had been impeded by Dave Bus and Merouane Zemmama stepped up to curl a stunning free-kick into the top corner of the net.
That was in the 48th minute and seven minutes later Hibs were ahead, Steven Fletcher slipped in Shiels whose initial effort was blocked by the on-rushing Langfield, but the Northern Ireland internatonalist had enough presence of mind to hook the rebound back over the keeper and into the net.
Hibs scored again in the 60th minute, but the offside flag had gone up against Nish long before Zemmama’s strike. The Easter Road outfit, though, had Ma-Kalambay’s quick thinking to thank for not losing their lead three minutes later, the goalkeeper racing from his line to block Maguire’s shot after he’d been picked out by Severin’s free-kick. And Ma-Kalambay did likewise five minutes later as De Visscher evaded the offside trap only to be thwarted by the 6ft 5in figure in front of him. The big Hibs goalkeeper deserved all the luck he got in the 84th minute when Stuart Duff, having stepped off the Dons bench, sent the ball crashing off the underside of his bar.
Hibs were denied a clear-cut penalty two minutes from time when defender Dave Bus hauled down Nish. It was, however, academic as Fletcher powered in to head home John Rankin’s cross deep into the three minutes of time added on.
Hibs: Ma-Kalambay, Gathuessi, Hogg, Jones, Zarabi, Shiels, Zemmama, Murray, Rankin, Fletcher, Nish.