HERE was the first payback, the downpayment on rewarding a set of fans who have been subjected to unimaginable psychological scarring.
When these clubs last met in the William Hill Scottish Cup, in that final in May, the humiliation of Hibernian bordered on grotesque. This was different. Not yet redemption – only winning the cup would really provide that – but something to fire back with when the boasts and taunts are next exchanged. No matter how often Hearts fans chanted about winning 5-1 the last time, David Wotherspoon's late, massively deflected goal delivered a result which began to redraw the balance of power in the capital.
There was no mocking Hibs last night for their woeful Scottish Cup history: 1902 and all that can be held against them for a while yet, but how Easter Road bubbled with noise and colour as their team ended Hearts' cup defence at the first opportunity.
It was Hibs' first derby win in 13 attempts, making it all the sweeter. Hibs are seven places above Hearts in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League so anyone ignorant of the clubs' history might not have been surprised by a home victory, but this was a profoundly significant result. Hearts have come to see the Scottish Cup as an annual vehicle for the humiliation of their rivals but it is Hibs who are in the bowl for the fifth-round draw at lunchtime today.
If this was any individual's result, it was Pat Fenlon's. He was a man stripped of his dignity at Hampden, defeat compounded by a rash "up yours" gesture to the gloating, delirious Hearts support which led to punishment from the SFA. Worse than that, it made it plain that the Hibs manager had been rattled into dropping his guard and revealing his pain. There were more gestures from him at the end of this one, a fist pumping the air in celebration or arms raised in a lap of honour to the three home stands. As they chanted his name back at him it was impossible not to share the pleasure Hibs derived from it all. Hampden could have accelerated a disintegration of Fenlon's reign at Hibs; instead there is the feeling that something is building for him and the club.
Belief is growing. As he pointed out after the match, there were more than 4000 more Hibs fans at the game than had turned out for the last derby here in August.
His programme notes had made no mention of the cup final or any desire for redemption: "There is an absolute hatred of losing. No away team will ever get an easy ride at Easter Road this season. We won't just roll over and die."
So it proved. Hibs cannot claim to have been the better side or to have played well – neither team did – but supporters tend not to be fussy about artistic merit when it comes to how a derby is decided. When Wotherspoon's shot from the right deflected off Marius Zaliukas to loop over Jamie MacDonald and inside his far post, the home stands erupted as if they'd just seen a moment's brilliance from Reilly, Stanton or Best.
The match itself was rotten. Possession was exchanged endlessly due to the frequency of poor passes from both sides. Long, hopeful punts did not help the spectacle, neither did the rushed, frenetic tempo which never allowed any breathing space for the more creative players to make an impression. The tackling and commitment from both sides satisfied their managers and the supporters but that also contributed to the lack of fluency. Neither team landed much of a mark on the other.
It got a far better atmosphere than it deserved, as supporters traded ritual insults from start to finish. Various themes were explored but the essence of them was "Hearts are going bust" from the home stands and "we only won 5-1" from the away end. There was a fair old racket for most of it although much of the din was reactions to tackles rather than anything particularly constructive.
What chances there were came mainly for Hearts. Arvydas Novikovas's first involvement was a cross which found Callum Paterson stealing in at the back post for a downward header well saved by Ben Williams. Hearts had felt Novikovas could get at Alan Maybury, the Hibs right-back, and they often tried to isolate the pair. Novikovas's deliveries were reasonable although no-one could quite get on the end of them.
A Jamie Walker corner was met by Zaliukas's header. The ball was going well wide until it deflected off Paul Hanlon towards his own goal, forcing Williams into a lively save. Hearts threatened again when Walker sent the ball across the face of the unguarded goal but Paterson did not anticipate the chance.
Hibs had barely threatened. Tom Taiwo snapped an early shot over the bar and Paul Cairney dribbled his way into a promising position only to try one too many touches and be dispossessed. Leigh Griffiths was well policed and when he was stretchered off with an ankle injury nine minutes into the second half it became even harder to envisage how they would score.
Hearts manager John McGlynn said that by then it had looked like a match with 0-0 written all over it. Not so. For once, the script was written in green and white.