James Keatings continued his fine run of form as he netted a brace in Hibernian’s victory over Livingston on Tuesday.
The Hibees moved to within two points of leaders Rangers at the top of the Championship table thanks to the former Hearts man’s goals, with Livi only able to muster a late consolation through Jordyn Sheerin.
Despite the two sides’ positions near the top and bottom of the table respectively, the visitors made life difficult for Hibs with an organised and disciplined performance and it took until the second half for the hosts to make the breakthrough.
The first half was a tense affair and although Livi posed a threat through Jordan White and Ross Millen, the home side should have gone in at the interval well in front.
A series of poor decisions in the final third, combined with an out-of-character miss from Jason Cummings after the striker had rounded Marc McCallum, meant that the teams returned to the dressing rooms with the game goalless.
The visitors could have punished the Scotland Under-21 international and his team-mates immediately after half time, but Mark Oxley confirmed his status as one of the finest goalkeepers in the division with fine saves from Scott Pittman and Myles Hippolyte.
Hibs manager Alan Stubbs threw on Dylan McGeouch in place of the ineffective Martin Boyle and the former Celtic man had a decisive impact.
His drive and commitment in midfield allowed John McGinn to more freely, and the youngster’s fine reverse pass played in Keatings who opened the scoring with a crisp finish beyond McCallum.
Cummings passed up two more fine scoring chances as he attempted to add to his record of scoring in each of his last seven games, but it would not matter as the Hibees made the result safe shortly afterwards.
Keatings, a summer signing from city rivals Hearts, had scored a hat-trick on his last appearance in the victory over St Mirren and he kept his outstanding form going with his second goal of the game.
The 23-year-old showed nice footwork to beat two defenders before rifling a shot past the goalkeeper, who had no chance.
The sense of relief was palpable around Easter Road on what had been a frustrating night for the title chasers.
Hibs were made to worry late on when two Livingston substitutes combined to give their side hope. Liam Buchanan, who joined from Championship rivals Alloa at the beginning of the season, crossed for Sheerin who made no mistake with his finish beyond Oxley.
However, that came too late for the visitors to find a route back into the game and the home side saw out their eighth consecutive win fairly comfortably.
Hibernian: Oxley, Gray (c), McGregor, Fontaine, Stevenson, Boyle (McGeouch), Fyvie, Henderson (Bartley), McGinn, Keatings, Cummings (Feruz).
Livingston: McCallum, Neill, Gallagher, Gordon, Longridge, Millen, Gibbons, Faria (Georgiev), Hippolyte (Sheerin), White (Buchanan), Pittman.