MORE significant games lie in wait for Hibernian in the weeks ahead but there was no getting away from how much this meant to them.

Derby victories are always to be cherished and this, a first win over Hearts in six attempts, was roared to the rooftops come full-time as the players embarked on a lap of honour.

Hibs were well worth their win over a Hearts side that threatened only sporadically, but they were left to stew until the final minute before victory was confirmed. A 1-0 lead is rarely enough in this fixture - as Hibs found to their cost earlier in the campaign - and so the noise that greeted Farid El Alagui's strike in injury time was imbued with relief as much as it was pleasure. Hibs have found Hearts to be an insurmountable object in recent years so here at last was some joy for the green half of the city, even if the cry of "champions" from the away end served as a reminder of the bigger picture.

This was the perfect tonic for Hibs ahead of a William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final appearance against Falkirk next weekend and the SPFL play-offs beyond that. After two successive home defeats, they needed to show they were made of stronger stuff and here was a result and performance that did just that. "Two weeks ago we were being questioned, people were asking if this was the wobble and was this Hibs season ending again," said manager Alan Stubbs. "Football can change very quickly. Suddenly after two results we are building momentum again."

Should Hibs fail to win promotion it would mean no Edinburgh derbies for only a second season in 33 years. Much as they would be loath to admit it, Hearts would surely miss them, too. If this is to be the last one for a while, then it wasn't the fieriest of contests despite the contrived pre-match brouhaha over Hibs' lack of willing to afford their rivals yet another guard of honour. The most contentious moment of the match, in fact, arrived after just a minute when Adam Eckersley inexplicably took exception to Scott Allan's presence on the touchline and seemed to motion with his head towards the Hibs player. Neither referee Kevin Clancy nor his assistant Alan Mulvanny thought anything of it, however, and Stubbs chose not to make capital of it either.

Hibs' need was greater here and for extended periods that showed. They enjoyed large swathes of possession, zipped the ball about quickly, and looked dangerous whenever Scott Allan or Fraser Fyvie got involved. Hearts, in contrast, looked lethargic for long spells, unable to lift themselves for the occasion. That, in the eyes of head coach Robbie Neilson, was unacceptable.

"Last week we got beat off Rangers, this week we've been beaten off Hibs," he said. "It's not acceptable when you play at Hearts. We should be winning games. Next season we're going to places like Parkhead, Tannadice, and Pittodrie, big venues against big teams. We have to perform better than that."

Hibs kept knocking on the door in the first half and eventually it opened for them. Fyvie lashed an early shot over, Callum Paterson headed against his own crossbar, before Jason Cummings brought Neil Alexander into the game for the first real time, the goalkeeper stretching to keep out the striker's driven effort.

Cummings would have his moment not long after when Hibs moved in front after 29 minutes. Hearts failed to properly clear their lines, Fyvie knocked it in to El Alagui who cushioned a header into Cummings' path. With no defender near him, the striker could not miss and he bundled a shot beyond Alexander from a matter of yards. The former Hearts youth player could not resist crowing briefly in front of the assembled away support before wisely being ushered away to continue the celebrations elsewhere. A Liam Fontaine volley that cracked against the crossbar was a further sign of Hibs' continued domination. They needed a second goal, however, and a nervy home crowd knew it, too. Hibs fans had seen this movie too many times before.

"At 1-0 you always think you could do with a second just to give you that comfort and I would have liked it to have come earlier," admitted Stubbs. "I was just thankful it came in the end."

Neilson, to his credit, realised quickly that his 3-5-2 system wasn't working. Off came the unfortunate Kevin McHattie after 36 minutes, with Sam Nicholson taking his place and Hearts reverting to a more familiar 4-2-3-1 shape. Hearts looked brighter after that, and at the start of the second half they were briefly in the ascendancy. A ferocious Jamie Walker drive, that Mark Oxley did well to touch over this crossbar, underlined their burgeoning intent. With Hibs looking dangerous on the counter attack, it had finally opened up into the competitive derby many neutrals had hoped for. The tension in the home end was almost palpable at times, although El Alagui could have eased it had he placed Jordon Forster's pass anywhere but Alexander's arms.

It was now fairly frenetic, end-to-end stuff. Only a terrific block from Forster thwarted Genero Zeefuik, before Osman Sow's low drive was well repelled by Oxley. In between Hibs were wasteful with a promising counter, substitute Dominique Malonga selfishly skidding an effort wide of target instead of playing in El Alagui who was better placed.

A second Hibs goal, however, eventually arrived. Franck Dja Djedje broke away and this time El Alagui did get the pass. His composure was impressive as he slipped the ball beyond Alexander and Hibs, at last, had that winning derby feeling once again.