10-05-2014Kilmarnock assured themselves of top-flight football next season while consigning Hibs to a relegation play-off.
Kris Boyd got the crucial goal for the visitors in a match dominated for long spells by the home side.
The full-time whistle was greeted with understandable jubilation among the travelling fans.
But the Hibs support now have to endure a two-legged contest with the winner of the Championship play-off to stay up.
It threatens to be a thoroughly miserable season for Edinburgh football, with Hearts already relegated to the second tier.
This was Hibs' 13th match without a victory, dating back to mid-February, and there can be little doubt their form over that period is that of relegation fodder.
They sat seventh and six points clear of then-11th placed Kilmarnock when Terry Butcher took over in November, and apart from a short spell in which the new manager seemed to have turned things around, they have arguably looked an even more dispirited and shambolic outfit than under Pat Fenlon.
Toothless up front, their dominance of this match, particularly in the early stages, was undermined by an incapability in front of goal, coupled with some doughty defending by Kilmarnock when necessary.
Nonetheless, with a touch of good fortune, Hibs could have been ahead on two or three occasions, with Jordon Forster's top-corner-bound drive flicked past the post by the head of Vitalijs Maksimenko.
From the corner, Scott Robertson, who had already forced Craig Samson into a decent save, glanced a header goalwards only for Barry Nicholson to head off the line.
Both sides had seemingly plausible penalty claims turned away by referee Craig Thomson - one for a shove on Michael Nelson, the other a trip on Boyd - before Killie got their noses in front.
Ross Barbour fired in a low cross and Kris Boyd, who had an earlier strike chalked off for offside, swept a shot from just inside the box past the outstretched hand of Ben Williams and into the goalkeeper's bottom right-hand corner.
Kilmarnock had spells in the second half of good possession, but again their goal was the one under greater threat.
Hibernian captain Liam Craig came closest to the goal that would have given them a fighting chance, but his ferocious drive from 20 yards clattered off the underside of the bar and away to safety.
There were also a couple of almighty goalmouth scrambles, which Killie somehow survived without conceding, but in truth Hibernian's season-long problems in front of goal were their downfall once again.
Whichever of the Championship clubs makes it through to meet Hibs, they will be facing a side bereft of confidence.
We Are "Killie Till We Die"!!!!
Team: Craig Samson, Jeroen Tesselaar. Jackson Irvine, Manuel Pascali, Ross Barbour, Barry Nicholson, (67 mins for Slater), Lee Ashcroft, Alexi Eremenko, Vitalijs Maksimenko, (34 mins for Clingan), Rory McKenzie, (67 mins for Muirhead), Kris Boyd
Subs:Antonio Reguero, William Gros, Chris Johnston, Ismael Bouzid
Allan Johnston on the Hibs Post-Match..."Obviously everyone saw it in the paper and I suppose it adds a wee bit of incentive to do well, but we had a lot of fans here today and I'm sure the players were desperate to make up for the Hearts game last weekend, I thought we deserved it [the win], we were the better team. We passed the ball better. But it was a nervy game and I'm just delighted with the boys' attitude. It was fantastic. They were throwing themselves in front of shots, crosses; you could see what it meant to them.
On Kris Boyd... "He's a massive player for us. Give him half a chance, he's going to score goals. We are going to try our very best to keep him. You've got to try to keep your best players. I'm sure there will be loads of clubs wanting him but he is a Kilmarnock lad and I know he is happy here. So we can only try our best. He needs to get a tidy-up operation on his ankle. He has played through the pain barrier and has been struggling for about a month with his ankle, and it just shows you the character and determination to do well.