In a tale of two penalties, Dundee United have taken themselves to joint top of the Championship.
Cammy Bell did what Cammy Bell does – saved from the spot with the scoreline goalless early in the second half.
But on this occasion the hat-trick penalty hero of East End Park had to share the limelight with Tony Andreu, who made no mistake at the other end after Simon Murray had been brought down.
United came into this match unbeaten at home and Hibs unbeaten away.
It is Ray McKinnon’s side whose league record is still standing and they also maintain their hugely impressive momentum that has now seen them avoid defeat in 11 fixtures.
Only goal difference – six – separates them and the Easter Road team after this deserved victory.
There were two changes to the United team that drew with Morton a fortnight ago, with Nick van der Velden coming in for Simon Murray and Lewis Toshney replacing Frank van der Struijk.
Hibs were without John McGinn and Fraser Fyvie.
United made a bright start and with two minutes on the clock a van der Velden shot was charged down in the box. The loose ball fell nicely for Willo Flood on the 18-yard line but the Irishman couldn’t trouble Ofir Marciano with his effort.
On six minutes Blair Spittal had to leave the pitch with blood pouring from his face.
It took another eight minutes for him to get stitches and return to the field. Thankfully for United there wasn’t any real threat of them conceding while Spittal was getting seen to, with the only effort on their goal in that time a long range Andrew Shinnie strike that Bell gathered in well.
It was pretty poor stuff from the league leaders in general, typified by a dreadful Lewis Stevenson free-kick delivery from the touchline when his centre backs had come forward into the box.
Long shots continued to be the order of the day, though.
Andreu tried his luck from outside the box on 20 minutes and his first time effort caught Marciano a bit flat-footed but drifted high and wide.
Midway through the half David Gray timed his run well to the back post and when a ball was delivered towards him from the opposite flank he outjumped Jamie Robson. The Hibs skipper would have been frustrated that the connection on his header wasn’t as good as the leap.
United came close to an opening goal on 28 minutes when another Andreu shot from distance nearly found the top corner.
And they were almost gifted one after Paul Hanlon coughed up the ball on the edge of the box only to be spared when the Tangerines made a mess of a three on two.
Hanlon’s mistake was nothing compared to one Spittal produced on 38 minutes. He played a blind back-pass that went straight to the feet of Boyle. With Spittal standing on the touchline head in his hands, his prayers were answered by Boyle’s slow reactions and Mark Durnan mopped it up.
After his stitches and his howler, a first half that Spittal won’t be looking back on with great fondness was topped off by a close-range shot that went over the bar via a Darren McGregor deflection.
After a disappointing first half performance, Hibs started the second a bit better.
A long diagonal ball to the back post looked like it was going to drop nicely for Hanlon but his first touch let him down.
There was nothing wrong with Charlie Telfer’s first touch a few minutes later and his sweetly-hit volley forced a good save from Marciano.
On 54 minutes Toshney made a clumsy challenge in the box on Boyle and referee Bobby Madden pointed straight to the spot.
It takes a good penalty to beat Bell though, and Boyle’s wasn’t a good penalty. The United keeper kept it out low to his right.
The game had now caught fire and a clash between Flood and Grant Holt in midfield, and the all-in that followed, certainly didn’t calm things down. Both men were booked.
Boyle was substituted not long after his penalty miss, with Jason Cummings replacing him.
United made their first change of the night a few minutes later – Simon Murray for van der Velden.
Murray made an immediate impact. He cut inside from the right touchline, taking the ball past Hanlon. Then, as he was ready to pull the trigger he was sent to the ground by Liam Fontaine and Madden awarded another penalty.
Marciano is no Cammy Bell and Andreu was more clinical than Boyle, and it was 1-0.
Hibs had plenty of the ball in the closing stages – which included four minutes of stoppage time – but the United goal wasn’t seriously threatened and they saw the game out quite comfortably.
Dundee United – Bell, Durnan, Toshney, Spittal (Murdoch 83), Fraser, Telfer, Edjenguele, Flood, Andreu (Smith 90), van der Velden (Murray 67), Robson. Subs not used – Zwick, Dillon, Donaldson, Obadeyi.
Hibs – Marciano, Gray, Hanlon, Fontaine, Bartley (Graham 83), Holt, McGeouch, Stevenson, Boyle (Cummings 64), Shinnie, McGregor. Subs not used – Laidlaw, Forster, Eardley, Crane, Martin.
Referee – Bobby Madden.
Attendance – 10,925.