Hibee History: Leigh Griffiths hat-trick sends Hibs to Hampden
Hibs reached the Scottish Cup semi-finals for the second season in succession after beating Kilmarnock in a six-goal thriller at Rugby Park.
The home side had the better of a scrappy opening to the game, but, despite winning free-kicks in promising areas, could not trouble Hibs goalkeeper Ben Williams.
Despite being on top in the early stages, Killie found themselves behind after 15 minutes. The talismanic Leigh Griffiths capitalised on a simple long ball from David Wotherspoon to shoot under Killie keeper Cammy Bell and claim his 20th goal of the season.
Killie put pressure on the Hibs defence in search of an equaliser, and the Ayrshiremen drew level when James Dayton rifled home on the rebound after Hibs keeper Williams had parried a long-range effort from William Gros.
After a pattern of midfield deadlock, a disastrous mix-up between Bell and Mahamadou Sissoko left a loose ball at winger Matt Done’s feet 12 yards from an empty net, and the midfielder made no mistake to put Hibs in the ascendancy.
Home striker Paul Heffernan almost dragged his side level on the stroke of half-time, juggling the ball inside the Hibs box before rifling a volley inches past Williams’ right-hand post.
The home defence continued to look jittery as the second half opened, and, after losing possession again, Griffiths waltzed into the box, but Bell scrambled his shot away.
Full-back Ross Barbour broke forward for Killie, as the home side’s play became more urgent, but his left-footed effort from a tight angle blazed wide of the mark.
New signing Kris Boyd had to wait to make his Killie return though, as Cillian Sheridan replaced Rory McKeown for Kenny Shiels’ men.
The attacking gamble proved wise as Dayton almost immediately forced a great save from Williams from a left-footed strike at the edge of the box.
Killie were awarded a penalty-kick when Lewis Stevenson bundled over Heffernan in the area as he went for the rebound, and the striker lashed the penalty into the net.
Griffiths then passed up a great chance for Hibs to retain their advantage, opting to shoot from a narrow angle with Done waiting in the six-yard box.
But the striker was not to be denied, outpacing Sissoko and robbing the ball from Bell’s despairing grasp to slip the ball into the net.
The goal prompted Shiels to bring on Boyd, but the striker was unable to rescue the tie for the hosts.
Defender Barbour saw red as the late drama continued, pulling back Griffiths in a dangerous position.
Gros then handled as part of the defensive wall at the free-kick, giving Griffiths the chance of a hat-trick, which he claimed with an emphatic penalty strike.
Hibs went on to beat Falkirk 4-3 in a stunning semi-final but they were resoundingly beaten 3-0 by Celtic in the final.
Kilmarnock: C Bell, R McKeown (C Sheridan, 65), R Barbour (s/o 87), J Fowler, M Sissoko, J Tesselaar (K Boyd, 84), J Winchester (M O’Hara, 79), S Clingan, J Dayton, P Heffernan, W Gros. Subs not used:K Letheren, G Hay.
Hibernian: B Williams, A Maybury, J McPake, R McGivern, J Claros, S Robertson, M Doney (G Deegan, 79), L Stevensond, T Taiwo (E Doyle, 79), D Wotherspoon, L Griffiths (A Harris, 89). Subs not used: S Murdoch, J Forster.
Referee: John Beaton.