Instructions barked at Oli Shaw were simple and straightforward: go and get us a goal. The former Scotland youth international duly delivered.
With Aberdeen losing, Hibs were staring at a missed opportunity at 1-0 down approaching stoppage time. Ross County looked to have slashed the gap on Hamilton and Dundee above them to just two points.
But Shaw’s cool, crisp finish transformed the outcome and could yet have significant repercussions at both ends of the table. Partick Thistle, for one, would have heaved a collective sigh of relief sitting just one, rather than three points adrift of County tonight.
For Neil Lennon, the Hibs manager, what was on the face of it a Dingwall disappointment could still amount to a massive point gained in the race for top three places. He felt it was the least Hibs deserved as the Leith side made it nine games unbeaten in the chase for European qualification.
“I felt we should have won the game and I’m disappointed, but I was pleased with the application and effort,” Lennon said. “It was total domination from us but we missed some clear opportunities to score early on.
“County scored with pretty much their first attack and possibly the only time they troubled our goalkeeper. Rangers won and Aberdeen got beat so it could be an important point in the run-in. We can only take care of our own business, though, and it’s five cup finals now.”
Lennon made just one change from the team victorious against Hamilton Accies on Tuesday night. With McGinn free from suspension, the Scotland international made an immediate return forcing Steven Whittaker onto the bench.
County caretakers Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson went with the same team that routed Partick Thistle 4-0 on Tuesday evening to climb off bottom place in the table.
The Easter Road team opened with confidence, but the hosts mostly restricted them to attempts from distance. And it was the hosts who stormed ahead after 28 minutes with their first real attempt.
Dutchman Alex Schalk teased clear of Efe Ambrose on the left and delivered a quality cross for Billy Mckay to score from eight yards.
County’s defensive assurance only grew after the opener but they were lucky not to lose an equaliser four minutes before the break.
The home defence failed to meet Scott Allan’s corner from the right as it found Paul Hanlon smacking a diving header into the turf but up and over the bar.
The Edinburgh side went close again after 51 minutes with Lewis Stevenson’s swerving cross from the left headed wide by Jamie Maclaren under pressure from Liam Fontaine.
County, though, relieved the pressure with a rapid counter-attack four minutes later. Harry Souttar’s long clearance found Schalk who went close with a 20-yard blast beyond the far post.
But County let the lead tumble on 90 minutes when, just inside a crowded penalty area, Oli Shaw swept the ball home from 16 yards.
“We are under no illusions how big a victory it would have been for us. There is huge disappointment after what the players put into the game,” home caretaker manager Stuart Kettlewell said. “But our job is to pick them up and make it clear to them this could be a huge point for us going forward.
“Our defensive organisation, our shape and willingness to put our bodies on the line, as happens in a relegation battle, was all there to see.”