Given the way in which this fixture has played out over the years – and was playing out again – it was perhaps inevitable that Hibs would need a helping hand to get the better of St Johnstone.
The Perth side were looking good to extend an unbeaten Easter Road league record that stretched back to 2012 until John Beaton intervened with as harsh a penalty award as you’re likely to see all season.
Beaton’s assessment of a Martin Boyle shot that was smashed at Jamie McCart from point-blank range 15 minutes into the second half defined this contest and brought the nine-year sequence of Saints’ Leith success to a painful end.
To make matters worse, 15 minutes after Boyle scored from the spot, McCart was ordered off.
If Saints are looking for a good omen, though, the very same referee decided the first match between the McDiarmid men and Jack Ross’s at the beginning of the previous campaign.
And we all know how that one ended.
Saints made a bright start and Michael O’Halloran’s aggressive pressing won the ball in a dangerous area at the edge of the Hibs box.
He fed a pass through to Chris Kane but an arm was used to control it and a promising attack was halted.
The first shot on target came at the other end – one Zander Clark dealt with comfortably.
Paul Hanlon had won a header at the back post from a free-kick and Josh Doig struck his effort straight at the Scotland squad man, whose form has been flawless for a long time.
There was no margin for error when Clark dived at the feet of Kevin Nisbet on 12 minutes and Beaton was satisfied that the keeper got a touch to the ball before the former Dunfermline and Raith Rovers forward hit the turf.
Saints’ best spell of the first half came in the middle of it.
During that period there was a Kane shot tipped over the bar by Matt Macey and a deflected Shaun Rooney cross that struck the outside of the near post.
The midweek Dens Park cup hero also came close with a dipping volley after Hibs only half-cleared a Liam Craig free-kick from deep and O’Halloran forced an excellent low save out of Macey with a sweetly-hit 20-yarder.
The last chance of the first 45 was Hibs’ – a back post Hanlon header from a Scott Allan corner that missed the target.
Saints start strongly again
Callum Davidson would have been happy with the way in which the opening period had panned out and there was plenty to be pleased about after the restart as well.
O’Halloran’s early season form has been very impressive and at the start of the second half he drove at the opposition defence before Ryan Porteous did well to recover and usher him away from danger.
Then moments later Ali Crawford released Rooney on the charge and this time Doig deserved credit for putting enough pressure on the shot to make sure it didn’t trouble Macey.
A feeling of comfort in the game quickly vanished after Beaton made THAT decision to award Hibs a penalty just before the hour mark.
Joe Newell’s cut-back picked out Boyle and there could only have been two to three yards between him and McCart when the Australian international’s first-time effort struck the centre-back.
If the shot hit his arm, it wasn’t away from his body.
It really did appear to be a very, very severe decision against McCart and Saints.
Their sense of frustration was exacerbated by Clark getting a hand to Boyle’s spot-kick before it found the goalie’s bottom right corner.
McCart, booked for the penalty, wasn’t able to get rid of his fury over the next 15 minutes and when he sarcastically applauded the assistant referee, Beaton gave his second yellow and sent him off.
Saints did their best to put some late pressure together but it didn’t come to anything and 1-0 it finished.