This defeat is likely to hurt more considering what was on offer here: a return trip to Hampden for the final and the carrot of European football up until Christmas. It will be Hearts who receive such bounties.
Hibs were rightly praised for their effort levels and aggression in the face of going 2-0 down midway through the first half. They refused to lie down, unlike previous versions of this green-and-white team. Chris Cadden got them right back into it with a goal on 26 minutes and, thereafter, they looked the likelier team to score – even when Joe Newell was sent off on 64 minutes. Had Hearts Craig Gordon not made another one of his incredible saves from a Ryan Porteous header, Hibs might have gone on to win this.
"I knew we weren't going to cave,” reflected Cadden. “They [Hearts’ two goals] were two great finishes but when I looked about after the second, I knew the boys still wanted it, I knew they were still hungry.“Once we got back into the game I felt there was only one team that would go on to win it. If we had got that second goal, I think we would have gone on to win it.
"I've not seen it back but Craig Gordon made an unbelievable save from Ryan Porteous. Ridiculous. I'm running away thinking it's a goal and if that had gone in, goals change games and I think we would have gone on to win it.“I think everybody could see that we left it all out there, even when we went down to ten men we dug in.“Last week wasn't good enough. We knew that. We tried to put things right today, left everything on the pitch, but it just wasn't our day."
Hibs’ fall from grace this season – they finished third in the cinch Premiership last term but are in the bottom six – has intensified scrutiny on manager Shaun Maloney, who took over from Jack Ross last December. Results and performances under Maloney have been mixed as he tries to implement a new style of football at the club.
"Of course we still have faith in what the manager's trying to do,” continued Cadden. “I think you can see that out there on the pitch.“The gaffer has been unbelievable since he came in and everyone ran themselves into the ground for the gaffer, everyone's putting their body on the line for the gaffer and doing everything they can.“The gaffer wants us to play a certain way and ever since he walked into the building everyone has bought into what he wants them to do.“He's been great and I can't speak highly enough of him. We enjoy it and all the boys ran themselves into the ground today – and that comes from the gaffer."
Hibs’ bottom-six campaign begins away at St Mirren on Saturday and Cadden added: “We'll take a couple of days off, reassess the game and then go again. It's a big end to the season and we know that.”