Hibernian boosted their hopes of overhauling Falkirk for second place in the Championship with an exciting if error-strewn victory over Rangers.
The hosts were 2-0 ahead inside 20 minutes via Jason Cummings’ 24th of the season and an own goal by bewildered Rangers goalkeeper Wes Foderingham.
Rangers pulled a goal back before half-time when Jason Holt punished a lapse from Hibs keeper Mark Oxley.
Niklas Gunnarsson’s volley made it 3-1 before Barrie McKay’s rocket late on.
That made for a nervy finish for a Hibs team that desperately needed the win as opposed to Rangers, who have already secured the title.
They saw it out, but only after Mark Oxley saved a Holt shot from close range, a moment that had the home fans beside themselves with worry.
Hibs are now just three points behind Falkirk in the chase for second in the Championship. They also have a game in hand over Peter Houston’s side, although their goal difference (+19) is inferior to Falkirk’s (+26).
In a dress rehearsal for the Scottish Cup final on 21 May, Rangers made just one change to the team that conquered Celtic at Hampden on Sunday – Michael O’Halloran coming in for Dean Shiels – but in every other way, for large parts of the night, they were a different team.
In the Scottish Cup semi-final they came up against a passive Celtic and out-played them. Here, they assumed that subdued, error-prone role themselves in the early moments. Hibs had an edge to them, a hunger to get into second place and avoid those two extra play-off games.
And inside five minutes they had the lead. The first of the defensive calamities came when Rangers fell asleep at a throw-in and Cummings galloped through their disorganised defence to smash the opening goal past Foderingham.
That was quickly followed by the second – and this was even softer with a touch of comedy added on top. Anthony Stokes put in a cross from the right and Foderingham lost the plot in trying to deal with it. Instead of catching it or putting it out for a corner, the goalkeeper pawed into his own net.
Things stated to get tricky for Hibs when Cummings was booked, correctly, for diving in an attempt to win a penalty. Three minutes later, their lead was halved when James Tavernier dinked a cross goalwards. Oxley, taking over from Conrad Logan, the big polar bear of Hampden, should have dealt with it, but he failed.
Oxley pawed it onto his crossbar but Holt buried the loose ball. It was now about Hibs’ character. Last midweek, they lost a 2-0 lead to Falkirk in the dying minutes at Easter Road and the memory of it almost hung in the air above the home support.
Hibs, though, scored a third early on the resumption. Again, the Rangers defence was sluggish, failing to clear the danger after a corner met by Paul Hanlon and allowing Gunnarsson the freedom to wait for the ball to drop to him inside the box before rifling his shot past Foderingham.
The visitors pressed without joy until McKay’s beauty from 25 yards set up that frenetic finish.