Kris Commons marked what could be his last game for Hibs with the only goal of the game as the Easter Road side battled for a win at Dumbarton which edged them six points clear of Dundee United at the top of the Championship table.
Commons struck after just 14 minutes but the Easter Road outfit were left hanging on as their part-time opponents threw everything at them only to be denied what would have been a well earned point.
Hibs made two changes to the side which demolished title rivals Dundee United eight days ago. Liam Fontaine replaced Paul Hanlon who has been suffering from a pelvic problem and Fraser Fyvie made a surprise return after missing the last six games with a groin problem. The former Wigan midfielder came in for Dylan McGeouch, who had picked up a knock, in midfield.
The visitors survived a couple of early scares, with Dumbarton’s Mark Docherty and Garry Fleming having shots blocked in quick succession before Neil Lennon’s side took the lead in the 14th minute.
Skipper David Gray’s cross was headed clear by David Smith but only to the edge of his own penalty area where Commons met it first time to rifle a low shot into the far corner of Alan Martin’s net.
It took a well-timed tackle from Gray to prevent the home side equalising seven minutes later when Lewis Vaughan side-stepped tackles from Fontaine and Lewis Stevenson before spotting the run of Fleming who would have been left with only Ross Laidlaw to beat had it not been for the Hibs right back’s intervention.
Dumbarton were by no means out of it. Hibs needed a second goal to give them a bit of a cushion and it almost came five minutes after the restart. Commons’ touch gave Stevenson the opportunity to test Martin but the goalkeeper dived low to his left to push the ball away. It fell for Chris Humphrey and he drilled a low shot back across goal and just wide of the far post.
Hibs, however, were contributing to their own problems with a string of loose passes and needless fouls, giving their part-time opposition great encouragement and it took a brave save from Laidlaw, diving at the feet of Vaughan after he’d waltzed his way into the penalty area to prevent his former Raith Rovers team-mate from equalising before Fleming saw a shot come off the bar.
Lennon’s players were looking increasingly desperate and the sight of their nemesis, former Hearts striker Christian Nade, stepping off the Dumbarton bench only served to heighten the anxiety of the travelling support. And a sign of how much pressure they were under came ten minutes from time when another defender, Jordon Forster, replaced Commons.
Nade had a glorious chance to salvage what would have been a highly merited point for Dumbarton in the last minute but somehow managed to knock fellow substitute Tom Lang’s cross wide from only a couple of yards out despite being all alone at the back post.
Dumbarton: Martin, Docherty, Buchanan, Carswell (Lang 86), Fleming, Thomson (Nade 69) Harvie, Barr, Smith, Stirling, Vaughan.
Substitutes not used: Brown, McCallum.
Hibs: Laidlaw, Gray, McGregor, Fontaine, Stevenson, Bartley, Fyvie, Commons (Forster 80), Boyle, Humphrey (McGinn 69), Cummings (Holt 69).
Substitutes not used: Marciano, Keatings, Shinnie, Graham
Referee: Nick Walsh