It will be written about on the top line of the first page in the scouts’ notebooks but Lawrence Shankland’s superb strike couldn’t keep Dundee United in the cup.
With talent-spotters from English Premiership side Sheffield United as well as Queens Park Rangers, Stoke and Coventry watching from the stands, Shankland knew he was under the spotlight again and didn’t disappoint even in defeat.
Indeed, this William Hill Scottish Cup fourth round replay at Easter Road was graced on 11 minutes with a magnificent strike from the Scotland international.
He took a pass from Peter Pawlett on his chest before lashing a half-volley into the net from outside of the box.
The hosts drew level four minutes before the break thanks to Scott Allan’s penalty then the top-flight men took the lead on 60 minutes through Christian Doidge.
Super sub Adrian Sporle then equalised within a minute of coming off the bench when his deflected strike hit the net then Doidge restored the home advantage with his second goal of the tie on 73 minutes.
Doidge then grabbed his hat-trick by making it 4-2 to Hibs in the 90th minute, blasting high into the roof of the net from close range.
That meant United’s wonderful unbeaten run ended at 15 matches, stretching all the way back to mid-October.
The Tangerines had made only one change from the team that kicked off in the league against Greenock Morton on Saturday, with midfielder Calum Butcher replacing frontman Osman Sow.
As well as scouts in the posh seats, watching from behind the goal was United owner Mark Ogren and his son Scott, the American duo spending the evening among the 2,140 away fans.
The visitors were cut open after just four minutes when Hibs’ Steven Whittaker ran forward without a challenge, worked his way into the box and was allowed to shoot, with the ball missing by just a few inches.
United responded well, though, and had a decent chance two minutes later when Pawlett could connect properly with a header from right in front of goal then Shankland was ruled offside as he tried to get to the loose ball.
However, the roof came off the top of the stand holding the United fans on 11 minutes as “Shanks” scored an absolute beauty of an opening goal.
It was a great ball into the frontman from Pawlett, who was lurking a couple of yards outside the home team’s box. The quality of the pass gave him room and time to take a touch on his chest then the Scotland star smashed a fabulous half-volley past the dazed Hibs goalie Ofir Marciano.
There was a scare for United when Whittaker went on the rampage again on 18 minutes after Tannadice captain Mark Reynolds gave the ball to him but goalkeeper Benjamin Siegrist saved the day by blocking the shot with his body.
Doidge should have done better for the Premiership side just a minute later when he blasted his shot wide from a decent position.
Quite inexplicably, Shankland was left totally unmarked by the home defence on 34 minutes and he was picked out well by Pawlett’s corner from the right but couldn’t keep his strike down. It was a great chance.
Pawlett was having a fine match and almost squared to Shankland inside the area but the cross was blocked. The promising move ended when Butcher’s low shot was held by Marciano.
United’s big challenge was to hold out until half-time but it was 1-1 after they conceded a penalty on 41 minutes.
Former Tannadice player Allan was the scorer, sending Siegrist the wrong way after Butcher had fouled Martin Boyle inside the area.
Just before the first half ended, United goalie Siegrist tipped a Paul O’Hanlon header over the bar.
On 51 minutes, Shankland tried to turn provider when he curled a great ball across the face of the Hibs goal but there were no takers.
Siegrist then pulled off a great save to block Boyle’s low shot for Hibs on 57 minutes, with the flag going up for offside but the Swiss keeper blissfully unaware that he wasn’t needed.
However, with the clock just striking the hour United found themselves behind.
Doidge provided the finish with a shot from inside the six-yard box after Joe Newell cut the ball back.
Almost immediately, Louis Appere had a brilliant opportunity to level for the visitors when he ran through on goal only to hit Marciano with his shot.
United switched Ian Harkes with sub Sporle on 66 minutes and just a few seconds later were level thanks to the Argentinian.
Smith sent over the cross to Sporle, who was standing 10 yards from goal on a slight angle. He hit a low drive towards goal and the ball spun into the net after taking a significant deflection off Lewis Stevenson.
However, they weren’t level long as the home team regained the lead on 73 minutes.
Doidge grabbed his second and his side’s third of the night when he nodded home another decent cross from Newell.
Osman Sow and Declan Glass both came on for United as they went for it but it was the Hibees who had the final say when they made it 4-2 in the final minute thanks to yet another Doidge goal.
Hibs: Marciano, Whittaker (Hallberg 80), Hanlon, Horgan (Murray 72), Doidge, Boyle, Newell, Stevenson, James, Jackson, Allan (Kamberi 72). Subs not used: Bogdan, Gray, McGregor, Gullan.
Dundee United: Siegrist, Smith, Powers, Connolly, Reynolds, Pawlett (Sow 77), Robson, Butcher, Harkes (Sporle 66), Shankland, Appere (Glass 83). Subs not used: Deniz, McMullan, Glass, King, Watson.
Referee: Kevin Clancy.