THE time-honoured phraseology of the 'six-pointer' seems far too mundane a term to apply to the amalgam of hopes and fears which feeds in to an Edinburgh derby like the one which will take place at Easter Road this lunchtime.

Six points, not to mention three, seems like small beer compared, say, to the centuries of one-upmanship in the collective memory guaranteed by Hearts' 5-1 Scottish Cup final victory against their Edinburgh rivals in 2012, or the equally defiant 2-0 win for the Gorgie side at Tynecastle last March which deprived Hibernian the last laugh of personally sending them packing for the lower leagues.

As we all know, that particular piece of premature pre-amble only continued to backfire on the Easter Road club when their own demotion to the SPFL Championship that summer soon deprived them of any fleeting sense of respite from the tormenting of their arch-nemeses from across the city. But six-pointer or not, the phrase is an easy shorthand for the positions in which Edinburgh's two football clubs find themselves again today. Victory for the visitors and Hearts would stretch their lead to 17 points before the end of October, rendering Hibs' title chances a mathematical improbability. Victory for Hibs, however, and suddenly even an 11-point deficit would seem significantly more manageable.

"It would be difficult to make up 17, but I am looking more at 11 points than 17," said Hibs boss Alan Stubbs. "That's the way we all have to think. There is no way on earth I am thinking the gap will be 17 points, no way whatsoever."

For all such ambitions, children of the 1980s and afterwards may believe it was ever thus in the capital grudge match, with Hearts the ruthlessly functioning football juggernaut, and Hibs the plucky upstarts whose resistance is fun while it lasts but which is ultimately crushed underfoot.

Even in the second tier, the two clubs seemed fated for now to reprise those roles. While old stagers can console themselves with the high watermark of the 7-0 win at Tynecastle in 1970, or Franck Sauzee and company's thrilling 6-2 win in October 2000, and it is often forgotten, though not by then manager Pat Fenlon, that Hibs actually went unbeaten in this fixture during the 2012/13 season, winning two and drawing the other three, in truth these are the exceptions which prove the rule.

Since then, Hearts have won five of the last six. Or to put it another way, Hibs have won just three of their last 22. It isn't quite dominance of Wallace Mercer era proportions, but it is getting there.

Perhaps the most obvious portent for Hibs fans to latch on to came nine years ago this month. That was when Hearts, in the young, hopeful days of Vladimir Romanov's tenure, crossed the city riding high on top of the SPL, on the back of a 12-match unbeaten league run, albeit with their preparations somewhat disrupted by the sudden departure of George Burley.

Posterity relates how Edgaras Jankasuskas was dismissed just after the hour mark, and late goals from Guillaume Beuzelin and Garry O'Connor won the day, leaving Hibs fans to glory in the legendary first implosion of the Romanov soap opera.

This time the Tynecastle side have only gone the 10 games unbeaten, and Robbie Neilson is manager rather than player, but in every other way the dynamic feels the same.

"People and the statisticians will always look back and reflect on things," said Stubbs. "I have read things saying it was similar nine years ago when Hearts came here. You can't stop people talking like that. But I know I won't be thinking about that before the game."

With the safety net of the play-offs there, there is no panic in Stubbs' voice. There is some evidence, gleaned from the victory against Rangers or the 2-1 defeat in this fixture earlier in the season, when Hibs missed a penalty to take the lead at 0-0, that his is a team which performs better on the big occasion.

"I know come the end of the season we'll be where we want to be," said Stubbs. "I know with the group of players we have got and with January coming up that we will be in those positions come the end of the season. I'd like to be going up as champions. But if it's 2nd, 3rd or 4th the three positions are the same."

Seated in the crowd that day in 2005, as he was when Hearts earned a stay of execution at Tynecastle last season, was Callum Booth, a dyed-in-the-wool Hibernian fan who is suddenly finding favour with the first team after loan spells at Arbroath, Brechin City, Livingston and Raith Rovers.

Nominally a left-back, Booth is in line to play at centre-back today after sailing through last week's 4-0 win against Livingston, but he was previously so far out of the picture that he was incognito even among the Hibs support. I remember when Hearts were unbeaten in the SPL under Burley [John McGlynn was in temporary charge for the game] and Hibs beat them 2-0," Booth recalled.

"Hopefully we can repeat that on Sunday. I can remember that match well. I was in the Under-15s or something so I was watching it with the youth team. It was a full house and it was a memorable game. I came to watch a few derbies when I was out on loan," he added.

"I was also at Tynecastle with my dad last season when Hibs could have relegated Hearts. I was a Hibs player, but I was also a Raith Rovers player, but none of the fans said anything, I don't know if they even recognised me. I was just there with my dad watching the game. Leigh Griffiths was there so he was taking all the attention."

Booth, whose record - not untypically for a young Hibs player - stands at three appearances and no wins, may have been unknown to his constituency on that occasion but he certainly brought himself back to their attention when playing and scoring in a

Scottish Cup win at Easter Road, whilst officially on-loan from the club to Raith Rovers. It was a result which hastened the departure of Terry Butcher.

"Obviously, being a Hibs player and then coming back and playing against them, and eventually going on to beat them, made for a strange day. With me being away for two years I didn't really think if I would play in another derby or not."

If Hearts are to continue the swathe they are currently cutting through this division, much as ever will depend on their dependable midfield axis of Morgaro Gomis and Prince Buaben. Manager Robbie Neilson reckons the pair, who once played alongside each other at Dundee United, are as good a midfield duo as can be found anywhere in Scottish football. There is a kind of telepathy in the way the two players complement each other on the pitch and you can expect them to locate each other no problem even amid the hurly burly of Edinburgh derby day.

"Prince brings the best out of me and I think I do the same for him," said Gomis, of his fellow midfielder, with whom he shares an agent. "We don't really speak when we are on the pitch, we just enjoy playing the game. We just click. I know him and the way he plays so we just look at each other and know he is going to be there and I will be there."

Now that Stubbs has had more time to bed in his new signings and implement his shape, Neilson expects even better from this Hibs side this lunchtime. But Hearts - with Gomis's old Cowdenbeath and Dundee United gaffer Craig Levein still overseeing things from a distance - are methodical in the extreme. Neilson spoke this week about replicating the structure which is currently functioning so smoothly under Alex Neil at Hamilton Academical.

"Hamilton are a great example to all the clubs in Scotland," he said. "They have the same system right through the academy, all the way through to the first team. So they have always got a guy who is ready to step in. It is a similar example to us. We are trying to have a system we play so we can develop the players and Morgaro and Prince are the two guys at the head of that system in the midfield role. They are an example to the rest of the players, to the young kids coming through. This is how we play."

It will be an old-fashioned six-pointer at Easter Road today all right. History will not be on Hibernian's side.