Hamilton Academical 0-2 Hibernian
Hibernian cast aside their insecurities to take the advantage in the Premiership play-off final first leg against Hamilton at New Douglas Park.
They were expected to struggle against Accies, but it was the Championship side that flagged after goals either side of half-time by Jason Cummings, the first two goals of his career.
The opener was a strike from distance that Kevin Cuthbert should have saved.
Then a close-range chip gave Terry Butcher's side a comfortable lead.
But there were other regrets for the home side, since Tony Andreu and Ali Crawford both saw second-half efforts blocked by Hibs goalkeeper Ben Williams.
Endurance was obligatory. This was only the opening 90 minutes of the Premiership play-off, with the second leg to come in Edinburgh on Sunday, but as well as the physical demands there were mental pressures to contend with.
Hibs had to overcome their own crisis of confidence as well as the perky confidence of their Championship hosts.
From every perspective, this tie was potentially a fearful occasion for Butcher's men. They came into it having won only once in their last 19 games, whereas their opponents were on a run of only one loss in 15 matches.
Hamilton have also revelled in a bountiful supply of goals this season, while the scarcity of reliable scorers at Hibs has been a critical flaw.
Butcher has never shirked a confrontation, though, and he made bold choices in his starting line-up. They might have arisen from a sense that there was nothing left to lose, but it was still risky to select Paul Heffernan, who has only just returned from injury, and the youngsters Sam Stanton, Alex Harris and Cummings for such a critical tie.
The reward was a refusal to be cowed. Hamilton had sensed a fragility in Hibs' psyche, and the intention was to prey on it. Accies boss Alex Neil spoke beforehand of his team's confidence and the certainties of his decision-making, as though Hibs could initially be diminished by comparison.
There was a forthright air to the home side, though, and it was epitomised by the aggressive running of Mikael Antoine-Curier.
Subtlety was cast aside as an irrelevance whenever the centre-forward set off on one of his thunderous forward surges, but the lack of composure eventually told when it came to delivering the final ball or taking a shot at goal.
He ought, for instance, to have tried to head the ball when he reached it before Williams, following a poor defensive header. The volley cannoned off the goalkeeper to safety.
Hamilton were capable of some cohesive passages of play, but raggedness was always evident as they tried to make something happen in front of goal. That anxiety was understandable, but the occasion demanded cooler heads.
Louis Longridge should have done better than shoot over when he found a corner of space inside the penalty area. The rashness could be excused as players being overly-eager to make an impact. Even so, it was damaging for Hamilton, particularly when the mis-judgement spread to Cuthbert in goal.
He seemed to be well-positioned to take Cummings's shot from 25 yards and while the ball might have swerved in mid-air, it still seemed to brush the goalkeeper's hands on its way in. Relief was probably the more powerful response for Hibs.
It certainly lasted the interval, since the second half was barely 10 minutes old when 18-year-old Cummings added his second.
A run and cross by Heffernan ended with the ball landing at the teenager's feet inside the penalty area and he could call upon the poise and presence of mind to chip a shot over the line, although Ziggy Gordon hacked the ball away and the officials paused briefly before confirming the goal.
Desperation became the driving force for Hamilton. There were moments of hope, but even the generally impressive Andreu could only bemoan his luck when Williams blocked at his feet from close range.
Then Williams scrambled away Crawford's shot from distance.
"You're staying down with the Jambos," sang the Hibs fans in reference to relegated city rivals Hearts. That outcome is not yet sealed, but a weight has been lifted from the Easter Road side.
- 8RoutledgeSubstituted forCrawfordat 84'minutes
- 5CanningBooked at 82mins
- 17LongridgeSubstituted forScotlandat 73'minutes
- 7KeatingsSubstituted forRyanat 52'minutes
- 5NelsonBooked at 90mins
- 8RobertsonBooked at 21minsSubstituted forTudur Jonesat 90'minutes
- 35CummingsSubstituted forCairneyat 85'minutes
- 17Tudur Jones
- Bobby Madden
- Shots on Target