Ross County missed the chance to move further clear of the Premiership relegation zone after losing 2-1 to Hibs.
The Staggies led at Victoria Park courtesy of Billy Mckay’s goal, but the visitors – who are now six points clear of Aberdeeen in third – responded quickly through Martin Boyle’s penalty and Kevin Nisbet’s counter.
With six games league games left County remain 10th in the Premiership, three points above Hamilton – who lost at Livingston – in the play-off spot and four points ahead of Kilmarnock who prop up the table.
First half of few chances
Dingwall manager John Hughes made one change to the side which beat Kilmarnock 3-2 last weekend with Celtic loanee Leo Hjelde replacing the injured Carl Tremarco.
The Staggies were given an early scare when Hjelde under little pressure sent a backpass into the path of Martin Boyle, rather than clearing upfield.
Goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw did well to force Boyle away from goal and when he squared it for Chris Cadden he wastefully lifted a shot over from 10 yards when he should have scored.
From the outset it was clear that the pace of Boyle in behind would cause problems, however, the County defence held a good line and trapped him offside on a number of occasions in the early stages.
Just after the 20 minute mark Josh Doig cut in from the left and curled an effort over from 20 yards.
The bulk of the game was being played in Ross County’s half, but they weren’t coughing up opportunities with any regularity, but in attack there was little in the way of meaningful service into strikers Jordan White and Billy Mckay.
Even when the Dingwall outfit won free-kicks in the opposition half during the first period the deliveries into the area weren’t of the required quality to trouble Hibs.
The positive of the first 45 minutes for County was that Laidlaw was untested in goal, for all the visitors’ dominance of territory and possession their final pass or cross was poor.
But the lack of attacking enterprise from the Staggies was a concern as they didn’t have a single shot at goal in the first half.
Second half spark
The second period began in monsoon-like conditions, but Ross County were celebrating in the rain just five minutes after the restart.
White and Mckay hadn’t had a chance between them in the first half, but they combined to put the Staggies in front.
With Hibs penned in Jordan Tillson’s cross from the right found White free and his header down teed up Mckay to finish into the right corner from six yards.
However, the lead lasted just a minute when Alex Iacovitti was penalised by referee John Beaton for coming through the back of Boyle, who went to ground, and after the penalty had been awarded Boyle converted, drilling straight down the middle from 12 yards.
Shortly after the Hibs goalscorer was booked for a clumsy late challenge on Hjelde.
The game had come to life and there were chances at both ends with Keith Watson testing goalkeeper Ofir Marciano from 15 yards following a County free-kick, before the keeper gratefully grabbed hold of White’s follow up effort.
On the hour mark Laidlaw was required twice in quick succession to keep the scores level. Firstly racing out to block from Boyle who was through one-on-one and then keeping out an Alex Gogic effort from the edge of the box with his feet.
But seconds later Hibs did take the lead when Paul Hanlon’s cross from the left found sub Kevin Nisbet at the back post and he made it 2-1.
After falling behind Hughes responded by sending on four subs – Jermaine Hylton, Ross Draper, Michael Gardyne and Harry Paton – in the space of five second half minutes.
In their pursuit of an equaliser White came close, heading a Hjelde free-kick against the right post in the final quarter of an hour.
At the other end Laidlaw repelled Nisbet twice as Hibs looked for a third which would have killed County off.
Gardyne’s last-ditch block prevented Christian Doidge netting with six minutes remaining after a rapid break forward from Nisbet.
However, the lack of a third goal didn’t matter in the end with County unable to conjure up an equaliser.
Ross County (3-5-2) – Ross Laidlaw, Keith Watson, Coll Donaldson (Harry Paton 69), Alex Iacovitti (Oli Shaw 84); Jason Naismith, Charlie Lakin (Michael Gardyne 69), Jordan Tillson (Ross Draper 69), Blair Spittal (Jermaine Hylton 64), Leo Hjelde; Billy Mckay, Jordan White.
Subs not used – Joe Hilton, Iain Vigurs, Reagan Charles-Cook, Stephen Kelly.
Hibernian (3-5-2) – Ofir Marciano, Paul McGinn, Ryan Porteous, Paul Hanlon; Chris Cadden (Kevin Nisbet 52), Joe Newell, Alex Gogic, Jackson Irvine, Josh Doig (Lewis Stevenson 75); Martin Boyle, Christian Doidge (Darren McGregor 88).
Subs not used – Matt Macey, David Gray, Kyle Magennis, Drey Wright, Melker Hallberg, Scott Allan.