Ten-man Hearts held on for a 1-1 draw in a tense final-day Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle to stop Hibernian leapfrogging them into fourth place in the cinch Premiership.
The Jambos knew a point would be enough to keep their fifth-place city rivals beneath them and secure automatic European qualification next term, and they got off to the perfect start when Yutaro Oda fired them into a ninth-minute lead.
But a red card for Alex Cochrane – his third of the season – on the half hour and an equaliser from Kevin Nisbet immediately afterwards meant Hearts had to dig deep for more than an hour – including stoppage-time – to get the point they needed.
Despite Hibs failing to get the win they craved, they will join their old foes in getting a crack at the Europa Conference League as long as Celtic defeat Championship side Inverness in next weekend’s Scottish Cup final, albeit starting in an earlier qualifying round.
Hearts made two changes to the team that started Wednesday’s 2-2 draw away to Rangers as Cochrane and Barrie McKay replaced Toby Sibbick and Alan Forrest.
There was one enforced change to the Hibs team that started Wednesday’s win over Celtic as Chris Cadden replaced the injured CJ Egan-Riley.
Hearts got off to the perfect start when they took the lead in the ninth minute as Japanese forward Oda drilled home his first goal for the club from just inside the box after a long throw-in from James Hill was only partially cleared by the Hibs defence.
The hosts suffered a blow in the 17th minute when midfielder Peter Haring – who only recently returned following a lengthy concussion lay-off – was forced off after clashing heads with Cadden while trying to deal with a cross from Elie Youan. The Austrian was replaced by Orestis Kiomourtzoglou.
The game swung in Hibs’ favour just before the half hour, however, when they were awarded a penalty after Cochrane brought Cadden down as he burst into the box.
Following a VAR review, referee Don Robertson showed a red card to Cochrane – whom he had initially booked – for denying a goal-scoring opportunity but he changed the spot-kick award to a free-kick as the foul had been committed just outside the box.
This mattered little to the Hibees, however, as Nisbet, who had been preparing to take the penalty, instead drove the free-kick through the defensive wall and into Zander Clark’s bottom right corner.
The visitors’ tails were up and in the 35th minute Paul Hanlon saw a shot pushed over by Clark from the edge of the box, before Jake Doyle-Hayes’ effort from the resulting corner was deflected behind. Joe Newell then saw a 15-yard strike brilliantly tipped over by Clark from a Doyle-Hayes corner just before the break.
Hibs boss Lee Johnson, knowing his team needed a win to leapfrog their opponents, made two attacking changes for the start of the second half as Ewan Henderson and Harry McKirdy replaced Lewis Miller and James Jeggo.
The visitors went close to taking the lead in the 49th minute when Nisbet glanced a header just wide from a Cadden cross.
The Hibees’ cause was not helped by the fact they lost both Doyle-Hayes and Cadden to injury in the early stages of the second half.
Will Fish had a header from a Newell corner brilliantly saved by Clark in the 75th minute and the centre-back saw another header deflected on to the post, but for all their possession Hibs were unable to find a way through a resilient Hearts back-line, sparking jubilant full-time scenes from the home side.
Published: by Radio NewsHub