Hibs booked their Ladbrokes Premiership play-off semi-final place against Falkirk with a nervy 2-0 win over Raith Rovers which took them through 2-1 on aggregate.
The Kirkcaldy men led 1-0 from the first leg at Stark’s Park but goals from midfielder John McGinn and defender Darren McGregor after only 12 minutes turned the tie in favour of Hibs.
Rovers shrugged off their lacklustre start and pushed forward for the goal that would take the game into extra-time but could not find a breakthrough leaving Hibs to host Falkirk, who finished second to champions Rangers, in the first leg on the Tuesday night before the return game on Friday.
The tension amongst the Hibs fans was palpable as their side exerted early pressure but that gave way to optimism in the eighth minute when McGinn’s shot from the edge of the box, while he was block-tackled by Iain Davidson, looped over goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert and went in off the crossbar.
Rovers boss Ray McKinnon, linked heavily with the vacant managerial post at Dundee United, had to rethink totally four minutes later when McGregor rose in a packed penalty area to head in Liam Henderson’s corner, given away needlessly by James Craigen.
The Kirkcaldy men had no option but to emerge from their shell.
And ten minutes before the break, amid some disarray inside the Hibs penalty area caused by Rovers striker Ryan Hardie, a tackle by McGregor prevented Louis Longridge getting his shot away after rounding Conrad Logan, the ball bouncing into the arms of the grateful keeper.
Hibs bossed the start of the second half and in the 52nd minute Harry Panayiotou, who had scored Raith’s goal after coming on as a substitute at Stark’s Park, replaced Craigen as McKinnon looked for another way back.
However, shortly afterwards Cuthbert had to make a crucial save from Henderson’s curling shot for a corner which Rovers survived.
As the second half unfolded further, Hibs’ slender lead meant the nerves began to return.
Rovers, hungrier and quicker to the ball, were dominating and, in the 73rd minute, defender Lewis Toshney headed a Rory McKeown cross past the far post when it looked like he ought to have hit the target.
Hibs skipper David Gray headed a McGinn free-kick against the post with six minutes remaining.
However, the Leith side were on the back foot mostly but despite some anxiety in four added minutes they did enough to keep their goal intact and move on to the next stage of the play-offs for what they hope is a return to the top flight, while Rovers will rue their poor start.
Hibs: Logan, Gray, McGregor, Hanlon, Stevenson, Henderson (Fontaine 82), Fyvie, McGeouch (Bartley 66), McGinn, Cummings (Keatings 81), Stokes. Subs not used: Oxley, Boyle, Gunnarsson, Dagnall.
Raith: Cuthbert, Thomson, Barr, Toshney, McKeown, Callachan, Davidson, Benedictus, Craigen (Panayiotou 52), Longridge (Stewart 65), Hardie (Thomas 75). Subs not used: Anderson, Connolly, Robertson, Law.
Referee: John McKendrick.