Brora Rangers went down 3-1 to Hibernian despite a brave fightback against the Premiership high-fliers at Easter Road.
The Cattachs fell two goals behind after just 12 minutes through midfielder Stevie Mallan’s double, but after battling relentlessly to keep the scoreline down they grabbed a lifeline through Dale Gillespie’s free kick on the hour mark.
Although Steven Mackay’s side looked for a late leveller to force the match to penalties, Paul Hanlon restored the two-goal cushion for the Edinburgh side with a header three minutes from time.
Brora were in competitive action for the first time since a 4-1 victory over Wick Academy on March 7, making the trip to high-flying Hibs all the more challenging.
Although Hibs boss Jack Ross made eight changes from the side which had defeated Hamilton Accies last time out, his side emerged sharp off the blocks with Jamie Gullan turning a strike wide from close-range following a corner on five minutes.
The home side were not to be denied on eight minutes though, with Mallan getting the break of the ball off Colin Williamson to go clean through and slot past Joe Malin.
Mallan doubled his and Hibs’ advantage just four minutes later after latching on to Melker Hallberg’s cutback to hammer home, with Malin again unable to keep it out despite getting a touch.
Hibs looked to add further goals before the interval, with Hallberg denied by Malin’s near post save on 23 minutes, while Drey Wright drilled an effort inches wide eight minutes later.
Brora enjoyed a fine start to the second half, with Martin Maclean thwarted by goalkeeper Dillon Barnes following a neat move with Ally MacDonald.
Malin was forced to make an outstanding save to keep out Darren McGregor’s close range header from a Mallan corner on 57 minutes, which proved important in allowing the Cattachs to salvage a lifeline three minutes later.
It was a stunning strike by Gillespie, who angled his free kick into Barnes’ bottom left corner to give the Sutherland outfit a burst of hope.
Although Brora took a lift from the goal they were unable to force the match to penalties, with Williamson doing well to block a Christian Doidge shot before Malin tipped over a Gray header.
Brora substitute Paul Brindle struck an effort just over in the dying stages, however Hanlon’s header ended the Cattachs’ hope.