Aberdeen dropped behind Motherwell to fourth in the Premiership after being thoroughly outclassed in the second half at Easter Road, losing 3-0 to Hibs.
The Dons went in to the game unbeaten in six games despite continued injury issues, but were aware – with only a one point advantage over fourth-placed Motherwell, who were hosting struggling Hearts and went on to win 1-0 – they needed a victory to stay best of the rest behind Celtic and Rangers.
Hibs, meanwhile, were sixth after an upturn in results under interim boss Eddie May and new manager Jack Ross.
Home striker Christian Doidge started the afternoon with seven goals in five matches.
Derek McInnes stuck with the same line-up from the second half of the 2-2 home draw with Rangers, a 4-2-3-1, with Zak Vyner and Lewis Ferguson in holding midfield, while Jon Gallagher was in the 10.
Vyner’s fellow defender Greg Leigh was also used in an advanced position once more, joining Andy Considine, who’d recovered from a hip knock, on the left side.
Niall McGinn had looked like he’d return to the squad after a calf strain, but was replaced on the bench by Bruce Anderson before kick-off as James Wilson stayed on the right of the three behind frontman Sam Cosgrove.
Early on, Ash Taylor moved well to block a dangerous Hibs ball into the area, however, Scott McKenna could only clear to Stevie Mallan, with the midfielder forcing a good low save from Joe Lewis.
On nine minutes, Sam Cosgrove sprinted on to a loose ball, after a tangle between Gallagher and Ryan Porteous, with his near post drive from 14 yards tipped round the post by Hibs keeper Ofir Marciano.
It took 10 minutes for the next moment of note to arrive, Marciano making a hash in possession at the edge of his area and Cosgrove robbing him. However, Hibs’ defence got back quickly and the Dons were forced to work the ball wide before Considine flashed a tasty cross along the home side’s six-yard line.
Soon after, Gallagher came close to finding Cosgrove 12 yards out after getting in behind on the right, but Porteous stretched to get a toe on the pass.
North-east native Martin Boyle had a drive from 20 yards deflected wide for Hibs on 26 minutes as the game settled into middling quality tit-fot-tat.
On 33 minutes Marciano made an impressive double stop from Wilson at the near post – after the former Manchester United man had headed the ball round Paul Hanlon – and then Cosgrove on the rebound from 12 yards.
Before the break, Ferguson – who’d shown increasing frustration with referee Colin Steven’s decisions to award Hibs several fouls in Aberdeen’s half – was booked for a challenge on Scott Allan when the home player was deep in his own half.
After the interval, Florian Kamberi quickly hit a close-range shot across goal and over the bar.
However, Hibs were ahead on 53 minutes. Scott Allan picked out the run of Boyle, who’d left Considine behind and subsequently drove away from McKenna, rounded Lewis and tap into the empty net.
The opener served to lift the home side, who looked like scoring another.
McInnes made a triple change on 64 minutes – with Ryan Hedges, Curtis Main and Dean Campbell coming on for Wilson, Vyner and Logan, and shifting to a 3-4-3.
But Hibs soon scored another.
Florian Kamberi played a one-two with Melker Hallberg before playing a killer ball through a big gap in the Dons backline to Boyle. Despite Considine chasing back desperately and Boyle produced another composed piece of finishing
Once play had restarted, Hedges was booked for diving in the Hibs area to compound the visitors’ misery.
It was three on 74 minutes, Kamberi skipping away from replacement Campbell on the left-flank before smashing low to Lewis’ right from the edge of the area.