St Johnstone were the only side Hibs failed to beat last season and the Perth club continue to hold the sign over the Capital club, who would have departed for home less than content with the point they’d taken.
Neil Lennon’s side failed to make the most of the chances they created in a first half in which they had Saints pinned down for long spells and paid for a momentary lapse by Stevie Mallan, the midfielder looking for a second which wasn’t there deep inside his own penalty area.
Former Hearts striker Tony Watt took full advantage, taking the ball off his toe before firing in a shot which took a deflection off Ryan Porteous on it’s way into the net.
Oli Shaw hauled Hibs level five minutes into the second half, the youngster displaying all of his predatory instincts as he stole in to meet Martin Boyle’s cross to head home his third goal of the season.
Hibs pushed and pushed for a winner which never came, while Saints were left furiously claiming for a penalty when an Efe Ambrose header came off the arm of team-mate Porteous, although it was clear there was no intent on the youngster’s part.
Lennon had again rotated his squad with Thursday night’s Europa League clash with Norwegian side Molde in mind, David Gray, Marvin Bartley, Vykintas Slivka and Flo Kamberi all taking a seat on the bench alongside the head coach’s latest signing Daryl Horgan.
That handed loanees Jamie Maclaren and Emerson Hyndman their first starts and the opportunity to hone their match fitness, with Shaw partnering the Aussie up front while Steven Whittaker took over the role of shielding the back three.
Shaw had got off the mark with a well-taken goal in last week’s 3-0 win over Motherwell and the youngster was quickly involved, forcing Zander Clark to get down low to his left to claw a header away before thundering in a shot which the Saints goalkeeper took at the second attempt.
Hibs were convinced they’d scored when Maclaren met Boyle’s cross six yards out, his effort beating the diving Clark only for Richie Foster to take it off the line, referee Willie Collum waving away claims it had actually crossed it as Lewis Stevenson dragged the rebound wide.
The Easter Road side had bossed the game but were punished for a slack moment from Mallan, the midfielder unaware of Watt on his shoulder as he took a touch on the ball inside his area, the much-travelled striker hammering in a shot from a tight angle that took a deflection off Ryan Porteous to leave goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw helpless.
Hibs could have levelled almost immediately, Boyle driving in a low shot which Clark got down to get his right hand on, the rebound coming at Maclaren too quickly for him to react with the goal at his mercy.
Matt Kennedy, who spent a spell on loan at Hibs in Alan Stubbs’ first season as manager, almost doubled Saints lead, curling in a superb shot which looked destined for the top corner of Laidlaw’s net until he used every inch of his 6ft 5in frame to rise and touch it over.
Hibs would have been disappointed not to have made the most of the chances they’d had in the opening 45 minutes, but they made the most of the first they created after the interval, Boyle swinging in a deep cross which saw Shaw stealing in behind Jason Kerr to stretch his neck and bullet home a header as the ball reared up off the turf in front of him.
After a bright opening, Hyndman looked to have tired and Lennon’s latest signing, Republic of Ireland internationalist Horgan. was thrown on along with Flo Kamberi, who replaced Maclaren to give the visiting attack a bit more impetus.
Saints had shown the fight their boss Tommy Wright felt was missing on the opening day of the season and they went close to regaining the lead as the game moved into the final quarter of an hour, Blair Alston meeting Foster’s cross but heading over from a good position, as had Kamberi at the other end.
However, it was Hibs who were continuing to press looking for that winner, Stevenson going close with a low shot which whistled past before Ambrose came from nowhere to prevent Alston’s shot finding the net.
St Johnstone: Clark; Foster, Anderson (Gordon 60), Kerr, Tanser; Wright (Wotherspoon 86), Davidson, Craig, Kennedy; Alston; Watt (McMillan 90). Subs not used: Mitchell, McCann, McClean, Scougall.
Hibs: Laidlaw; Ambrose, Porteous, Hanlon; Whittaker; Boyle, Mallan, Hyndman (Horgan 63), Stevenson; Shaw (Swanson 85), Maclaren (Kamberi 63). Subs not used: Dabrowski, Gray, Bartley, Slivka.