• Danny Galbraith could not have picked a better time to score his first goal for Hibs – a last-minute winner at Celtic Park. Picture: Jeff Holmes/SNS
A stoppage-time goal from Danny Galbraith, his first for the club, saw Hibs secure a dramatic 2-1 win at Celtic Park which saw Tony Mowbray's struggling side fall ten points behind champions Rangers – 2-0 winners at St Mirren – at the top of the table.
It was the perfect response to Hughes' public demand earlier this week for a third-place finish and European qualification from Hibs in his first season at charge. Despite last night's eye-catching result, however, it remains the limit of his ambitions.
"I was big enough to come out this week and say I wanted third place and to have a European night at Easter Road," said Hughes. "I was really calculated in saying it when I did. I didn't want too many expectations surrounding the players at the start of the season.
"There is no chance of us finishing second. Celtic are still miles in front of us. We might not even achieve third place. We will take plenty of knocks along the way, but it is nice to challenge these boys and see the character that is in our dressing room.
"I'm level-headed whether we win or lose, but I'm delighted for the boys. They have given me everything since I came to the club and this is maybe the result of the hard work they have put in. I need to give them belief they can come to Glasgow and win. Maybe tonight will do that."
Hughes was gratified by Galbraith's contribution, the 18-year-old coolly slotting home the winner after coming on as a second half substitute. Injury problems cut short his time at Manchester United but he is steadily rebuilding a promising career. "Danny is a kid who was well grounded at United. He was out for a while with injury, but he is a fit lad and just needs to believe in himself. He is a lovely kid to work with. I was screaming at him before he went on tonight to believe in himself and told him he could be a match-winner. I'm delighted he took it on board.
"I am honest enough to say Celtic were the better side. They had better ball retention but that doesn't always win you games. We kept our shape and stayed in the game. We rode our luck and our goalkeeper made some good saves. We defended really manfully. In the second half, we tried to hit them on the counter attack and it worked. There are plenty of ways of skinning a cat and it went for us tonight.
"There were plenty of positives for us, even if we hadn't got this result. Young David Wotherspoon is now a first-team regular and was outstanding, as was Paul Hanlon who is also only 20. We have a young team and hopefully they will take confidence from this."
Hibs' victory intensified pressure on Celtic manager Mowbray, whose team have now dropped 11 points at home this season, but he remained defiant afterwards.
"We need to keep believing," he said. "There are enough teams who can take points off Rangers. We still have to play them twice and on the evidence of the first two games against them, we should be looking forward to them. I believe we can win every game. Will we win every game? Probably not, but we will try.
"Of course I'm concerned about the 10-point gap. The Celtic fans are disappointed and so are we. But when things click into place, I'm sure we will be heading in the right direction."
Celtic 1 - 2 Hibs: Celtic are felled by a Danny Galbraith sucker punch
St Mirren 0 - 2 Rangers: Davis and Novo on target as Rangers stretch lead at summit to ten points