Hibs were left stunned as St Mirren raced into a three goal lead with less than 30 minutes on the clock, Paul McGowan’s shot coming off the post and then goalkeeper Ben Williams before Adam Campbell and Steven Thompson put the Buddies on easy street.
But the Paisley outfit were left hanging on as James Collins headed home two second half goals with Hibs raging as they claimed Campbell had handled inside the penalty area with only seconds left on the clock.
A thigh strain sidelined Paul Hanlon, ending the defender’s record of having played in every minute of every Hibs match so far this season, his place going to Alan Maybury as Jordon Forster moved from right back into central defence to partner Michael Nelson.
With Danny Handling also out, the victim of a heel injury, Paul Heffernan was on a Hibs bench which included only six substitutes, lending further fuel to the speculation that Kevin Thomson, Tom Taiwo, Tim Clancy and Rowan Vine have no future at Easter Road.
The Buddies, too, only had six on the bench, one of them being new signing Greg Wylde.
Hibs were shocked when Saints took that early lead, Sean Kelly’s powerful run taking him beyond Maybury allowing him to cut the ball back for McGowan whose low shot beat Williams only to come back off the right hand post, hammer into the back of the goalkeeper, by now sprawled on the turf, and into the net.
The Edinburgh club were dealt another blow in the eighth minute when Ryan McGivern went down clutching his left hamstring, prompting a reshuffle as Lewis Stevenson took over at left back with Alex Harris replacing the Northern Ireland internaionalist.
Jason Cummings went close to equalising with a deflected shot which had Saints goalkeeper Marian Kello beaten only for the ball to drop agonisingly inches wide of target.
And it went from bad to worse for Hibs when the Buddies hit them with two more goals in as many minutes, Campbell latching onto Conor Newton’s well-weighted ball down the line to turn Stevenson before playing a one-two with John McGinn to leave himself with the simple taks of sliding a low shot beyond Williams.
Campbell turned provider when he teased and tormented Stevenson before delivering a perfectly flighted cross for Thompson to bullet home close-range header, the cue for some Hibs fans to begin heading for the exits with less than half-an-hour on the clock.
Only the width of Williams’ cross bar prevented McGowan making iit four three minutes before the interval, the midfielder’s looping shot on the turn leaving the goalkeeper scrambling before it made contact with the woodwork.
It was going to be a long way back for Hibs and they needed an early second half goal to give themselves any hope whatsoever but the first 15 minutes passed without any hint of Kello being seriously threatened.
The only incident of note being a Jim Goodwin elbow into the face of substitute Sam Stanton, referee Willie Collum satisfying himself with a yellow card rather than red although Saints boss Danny Lennon saw the warning signs and had him replaced by Wylde a few minutes later.
But in the intervening period Collins had raised the spirits of the home support, getting his head to Harris’ near post corner to glance the ball home.
And Collins did it again in the last minute, heading home from close-range as Sainits were left battling to hold onto the three points.
Hibs: Williams, Maybury, Forster, Nelson, McGivern (Harris 8), Cairney (Stanton 46), Craig, Robertson, Stevenson, Collins, Cummings (Zoubir 76).
Substitutes not used: Murdoch, Tudur Jones, Heffernan.
St Mirren: Kello, Naismith, McAusland, McGregor, Kelly, Goodwin (Wylde 65), Newton, McGowan (Van Zanten 81), McGinn, Campbell (Grainger 90+3), Thompson.
Substitutes not used: Dilo, Reilly, Brady.
Referee: Willie Collum.