Martin Boyle was Hibernian’s hat-trick hero in the 3-1 humbling of Rangers which set up a Premier Sports Cup final with Celtic next month.
New Gers boss Giovanni Van Bronckhorst watched from the Hampden Park main stand awaiting a work permit, as the Australia international scored three times in 38 minutes – the third from the spot – before Gers midfielder Scott Arfield’s strike gave the flailing Ibrox side a semi-final lifeline.
However, Hibs remained resilient under pressure and Rangers, led by B-team boss David McCallum and his assistant Brian Gilmour, helped by player-coach Jermain Defoe and goalkeeping coach Colin Stewart, ran out of ideas and time.
Former Gers player Van Bronckhorst will have been concerned by Rangers’ shambolic defending in the first half while Jack Ross’ side can now look forward to taking on the other side of the Old Firm at the national stadium on December 19.
Ross had very recently moved to tie up five players – Josh Doig, Jake Doyle-Hayes, Paul Hanlon, Christian Doidge and Lewis Stevenson – on new deals, with the former three in the side.
Chris Cadden and Josh Campbell came in for Alex Gogic and Jamie Murphy, while Borna Barisic, Glen Kamara, Steven Davis, Arfield and Alfredo Morelos came into the Light Blues side which McCallum confirmed he had picked despite having chatted to Van Bronckhorst beforehand.
It was quite a start as Hanlon and Hibs midfielder Joe Newell picked up bookings from referee Kevin Clancy for respective fouls on Gers playmaker Joe Aribo.
Boyle then started the scoring in the ninth minute when he knocked the ball past Gers keeper Allan McGregor from a yard out after it appeared that Rangers skipper James Tavernier had tried to chest Newell’s corner back to his keeper and came up short.
Four minutes later Morelos drove straight at Hibs keeper Matt Macey after getting away from Hanlon.
In the 20th minute Hanlon’s timely tackle inside the box prevented Macey from being tested by Aribo’s goal-bound shot.
At the other end seconds later, there was no such blockade when Kevin Nisbet took a pass from Newell and played in Boyle who lashed the ball low past McGregor for number two.
The Light Blues were simply stunned.
Arfield tested Macey with a long-range drive and then came close with a powerful effort on the turn while in between Aribo fired over the bar on the angle.
Things got worse for Rangers in the 38th minute when midfielder Davis bumped Boyle inside the box.
Referee Clancy pointed to the spot and the Hibees forward hammered his penalty past McGregor to send the Hibs fans into raptures.
They were still celebrating when Hibs defender Ryan Porteous kicked a clearance straight to Arfield who curled the ball past Macey to reduce the deficit.
An inevitable Light Blues surge at the start of the second half saw Porteous brilliantly block a drive from Kamara and a series of crosses and corners into the penalty area followed.
Veteran Hibs defender Stevenson replaced Doig before Fashion Sakala came on for Ryan Kent and got in a header from a Tavernier cross which caused some trouble.
Ianis Hagi and Ryan Jack took over from Arfield and Aribo in the 69th minute as the Ibrox men tried another route.
In the 77th minute Jack’s deflected shot forced a corner from which Leon Balogun missed the target with a header and when the ball was recycled, fellow Gers centre-back Connor Goldson headed into Macey’s arms.
In the 87th minute Goldson fired over the bar from 10 yards following a corner and with that chance went any slim hopes of a comeback, leaving Hibs to celebrate at the final whistle and plenty of questions for Van Bronckhorst.