St Johnstone finally broke the visitors’ resistance with eight minutes left through Chris Kane, who had a part to play in Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano’s red card much earlier in the game.
St Johnstone have still only won once in their last eleven home league outings. But this was a point they were satisfied with since it looked for a long time as if they might suffer the indignity of losing to a side who had been depleted in number since the 14 th minute.
But there was some frustration for the home side when Scott Tanser’s 90 th minute free kick was tipped on to the bar by Cammy Bell before the ball was smothered on the line by the substitute goalkeeper.
Hibs, who remain in fourth place, had planned to continue with the three at the back formation that proved successful seven days earlier against Hearts. But events meant this was only a temporary arrangement despite the start that saw the visitors strike after two minutes through Efe Ambrose.
There was no Neil Lennon, on the touchline at least, and no Dylan McGeouch. But that was of no concern to Hibs, initially at least. Befitting a side looking to move up to third place last night, they are able to look to other individuals for inspiration, Scott Allan specifically.
But they were not able to withstand playing around 80 minutes with ten men. Marciano’s rush of blood to the head was a test of his side’s capabilities.
Allan could be one of those Alex McLeish might consider drafting in should McGeouch’s injury, an abductor muscle strain, keep him out of Scotland’s forthcoming friendlies against Costa Rica and Hungary.
His assist saw Hibs establish a foothold that they were glad to have in view of later events.
Allan exchanged passes with John McGinn from a corner and then left Chris Millar in a heap with a neat manoeuvre that bought the midfielder time to pick out Ambrose on the edge of the six yard box.
The defender rose well to beat Joe Shaughnessy to the ball and leave Alan Mannus helpless.
Within minutes Hibs were forced into a major re-jig. Millar’s ball up the right wing drew Marciano out of his box. It was a bewildering decision by the goalkeeper to make a dash to intercept the ball.
Chris Kane sought to capitalise and lift the ball over him, prompting Marciano to instinctively try and make the save.
Jamie Maclaren, one of the heroes against Hearts just over a week ago, was sacrificed as Bell replaced the red-carded Marciano.
Hibs anticipated digging in and moved to a back four. It was, after all, a long time until the end – 76 minutes at least.
It was the visitors who continued to fashion the better chances. Allan played in a tempting ball to Kamberi, who failed to connect on the edge of the six-yard box. Hanlon then headed over McGinn’s free-kick from a good position.
But Bell, who hasn’t played a first-team since May, was going to have to come under pressure before long.
The the hosts upped the ante. Shaughnessy’s shot from close-in was well stopped by Bell. Kane spurned a better opportunity just afterwards when Bell was out smartly to smother at the striker’s feet.
Hibs survived and reached half-time still in front, which was a mini triumph in itself considering their depleted number.
Bell had settled in well but knew Tommy Wright would likely have instructed his players to provide him with more of a test in the second 45 minutes.
Half time substitute George Williams sought to do just that seven minutes after the break having been sent on for Millar. Williams was clearly deployed to add more goal menace and he whipped in a shot from 20 yards that Bell did well to parry while at fill stretch. Kane was then unable to wrap his foot round the ball at the rebound.
The teams could have been evened up after 56 minutes when Blair Alston upended McGinn as he burst through with a nasty, cynical foul. Referee John Beaton showed leniency when showing only a yellow card.
Lennon, in no mood to treat match officials with any mercy, was up of his seat in the directors’ box, predictably irking some St Johnstone fans sitting nearby.
Alston later gave way for David Wotherspoon, on whom McGinn got some revenge later with an equally cynical foul.
Hibs were defending with slightly more desperation. The visitors finally profited from having a numerical advantage when Williams crossed from the left, substitute Denny Johnstone headed on and Kane stabbed past Bell.