A hat-trick by Hibernian striker Florian Kamberi spared the blushes of Ofir Marciano as the capital club recovered from a calamitous contribution by the returning goalkeeper to vanquish the stubborn resistance of ten-man Hamilton at Easter Road.
Marciano, back from suspension following his ludicrous dismissal for handling the ball 40 yards from goal against St Johnstone last month, was again in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons when his clumsy fumble allowed Marios Ogkmpoe to give Accies the lead.
However, the hosts’ response was superb and, after seeing Lewis Stevenson and Kamberi strike the woodwork, the towering Swiss marksman swiftly found his range to run riot with a deadly display of finishing. His first treble for Hibs sees them move to within one point of third-placed Rangers. Hamilton will, however, rue the dismissal of Dougie Imrie which occurred with the score balanced at 1-1 following a series of fouls on Martin Boyle.
Neil Lennon seeking to guide Hibs to five consecutive league wins at Easter Road for the first time since February 2001, understandably saw little reason to extensively tinker with the side that dispatched Partick Thistle 2-0 on Saturday.
He did choose to replace Marvin Bartley in the heart of midfield with the more creative force of Steven Whittaker, while another change was enforced as Marciano came into the side in place of Cammy Bell after the former Rangers goalkeeper was struck down with a calf strain.
Hamilton, meanwhile, drafted in Ogkmpoe, Darren Lyon and Daniel Redmond in place of Ross Jenkins, Ronan Hughes and Scott McMann from the side defeated 2-0 by in-form Kilmarnock at the weekend.
The visitors’ strategy was clear from the outset as they erected a stubborn five-man defence; a coiled spring ready to counter. It paid almost immediate dividends for Martin Canning’s men, with a inglorious assist from Hibs goalkeeper Marciano. A Scott Allan pass was blocked in the final third, allowing a long pass to send Antonio Rojano scampering down the right flank. His cross, effectively straight into the arms of Marciano, should have been elementary for the Israel internationalist, however he tentatively fumbled the ball into the path of Ogkmpoe who could barely believe his good fortune as he turned the ball into the net from six yards.
Hibs are nothing if not resolute under Lennon (pictured) – watching from above as he served the final match of his three-match touchline suspension – and their response was impressive and luckless in equal measures.
Kamberi rattled the post within minutes after the rangy Swiss striker met a sumptuous in-swinging Stevenson cross. The woodwork was again responsible for preserving Accies’ lead when a fizzing, albeit somewhat misdirected, Stevenson delivery was tipped on to the bar by Gary Woods.
Nevertheless, it was clearly a matter of time until parity was restored as the Lanarkshire outfit wobbled, and the inevitable occurred after 17 minutes. The lively Kamberi played a neat one-two with Dylan McGeouch on the edge of the box and unleashed a superb low drive beyond Woods into the corner of the net.
The wind in their sails, Hibs surged forward through Boyle, excelling in his new right wing-back role. The waspish wide-man fired a wonderful low delivery across the face of goal and a sliding Jamie Maclaren was mere inches away from completing what would have been a richly-merited turnaround.
Easter Road skipper Paul Hanlon, fresh from claiming just his second goal of the campaign against Thistle in his last outing, almost gave Hibs the lead on the stroke of half-time after rising highest to meet a wicked Stevenson corner-kick, however his header skewed narrowly off target.
The second period brought little change in the status quo; Hibs attacked, Hamilton laudably resisted.
A delightfully worked corner-kick routine saw a pin-point Allan delivery find Hanlon, whose flick-on was perfect for the unmarked Kamberi, however the attacker’s acrobatic effort drifted inches wide of the post with Woods stranded.
Hibs barely required any more impetus, but they were afforded further encouragement when Hamilton were reduced to ten men. Imrie, already on a booking following a foul on Boyle in the first half, was dismissed for hauling down the same man just after the hour-mark.
It was a second red card brandished in the space of three days by referee Steven McLean and, much like his high-profile dismissal of Andrew Davies for a stamp on Scott Brown at Parkhead on Saturday, was entirely justified.
To rub salt in the wounds, Hamilton were behind within 60 seconds. From the resulting free-kick, Boyle clipped in an inviting cross in the direction of Kamberi, who rose superbly to power a header beyond Woods, via the upright.
Facing a deficit in personnel and on the scoreboard, Hamilton finally wilted to allow Kamberi to walk away with the match ball, latching on to a wonderful through-pass from Hanlon before slotting under the legs of Woods. Make that six goals in eight games for the Grasshopper Zurich loan star, who has proved to be an inspired January arrival.