Motherwell 2 Hibernian 3
Hibernian banished memories of May’s spectacular Fir Park collapse as they came from behind to edge another high-scoring thriller against Motherwell.
John Sutton gave Motherwell a deserved early lead but the Republic of Ireland's Anthony Stokes bundled home from close range in first-half stoppage-time before Paul Hamlon did the same despite suspicions of handball against Sol Bamba.
Liam Miller, another Republic of Ireland player, added a third for Hibs and unlike last season, when they lost a four-goal lead to draw 6-6, the visitors held on despite Jamie Murphy pulling one back from the spot.
Motherwell started brightly but almost fell behind in the fifth minute when Stokes got the better of Mark Reynolds, who slipped while trying to sweep up a long ball. The Irishman aimed for the far corner from 12 yards but home goalkeeper Darren Randolph did well to steer the ball wide with his foot.
The home side were soon back in the ascendancy with Murphy testing Stack with a positive run and shot from outside the box.
Well took the lead in the 13th minute when John Sutton got in front of Chris Hogg at the near post before getting a deft touch on Tom Hateley’s low inswinging cross to guide the ball inside the far post.
Sutton had another half chance when Hibs failed to deal with Stephen Craigan’s long free-kick but Stack held his left-footed strike at the second attempt.
Riordan was well over with a 30-yard free-kick and Motherwell continued to look more dangerous with Sol Bamba denying Sutton with an excellent block following Murphy’s low cross.
The game was being played at a furious pace and Motherwell were looking the sharper of the teams. Hateley’s curling effort was held by Stack and Bamba’s long legs again denied Sutton as he attacked Steve Jennings’ near-post cross following slick build-up play.
But Randolph again came to Motherwell’s rescue when he pushed over Kevin McBride’s powerful 16-yard strike following a poor clearance from Reynolds.
There were more scares for either team before the 45 minutes were up with Stack holding another dangerous ball into the Hibs goalmouth from Hateley and Hogg looping a header over the bar.
And Hibs levelled 60 seconds into injury time after Riordan swung in a dangerous ball from 25 yards out on the left channel after Keith Lasley had fouled Stokes.
Bamba headed down inside the six-yard box and Stokes bundled the ball over the line from two yards.
Motherwell came back out intent on restoring their lead and Stack held Murphy's low shot after Lasley's long pass almost sent the Scotland Under-21 striker clean through, before Reynolds flashed a 30-yard strike just wide.
Randolph produced another great save when he pushed away a stunning 30-yard shot by Stokes from wide on the left.
The home side were still creating more chances than their visitors and Stack held Murphy’s flick with the outside of his right boot after a ball over the top from Reynolds.
Motherwell came closer still when the improving Chris Humphrey beat Paul Hanlon on the right wing and looped a cross off the inside of the post. The ball eventually came back to Humphrey, whose second cross was headed just wide by Sutton.
However, Hibs took the lead in the 64th minute after another brilliant delivery by Riordan. The former Celtic player swung the ball towards the back post and Hanlon forced it over the line, although Bamba appeared to have gone for the ball with his hand as it cleared Randolph.
Sutton had a strong penalty claim denied by Craig Thomson after he was clumsily bundled over by Hogg.
Hibs immediately went further ahead in the 73rd minute when Riordan played Liam Miller into the left channel for the Irishman to drill home.
Blackman came on, with Hateley making way, and he quickly won a penalty when Nish senselessly pulled his shirt amid little danger just inside the box. Murphy sent Stack the wrong way to make it 3-2 with 15 minutes remaining.
But the comeback never materialised this time as Hibs took the sting out of the game.
Brown brought on Casagolda to play with four strikers but Hibs looked dangerous on the break and both Riordan and Stokes came close before Hibs substitute David Stephens made sure of the victory by blocking Lasley’s last-gasp shot.