Hibernian secured a 2-1 win over Kilmarnock on the opening day of the new Premiership season, courtesy of a double from Martin Boyle.
The Australian international’s brace came during a dominant first-half showing at a sun-soaked Easter Road.
A stunning long-range free-kick Chris Burke reduced arrears just before the interval to set up an intriguing second period. However, the home side navigated it competently and deserved their victory.
After 144 days without competitive football, Hibernian were back in action as the new campaign opened behind closed doors.
Jack Ross handed a debut to 18-year-old defender Josh Doig and he lined up alongside summer signings Alex Gogic, Drey Wright and Kevin Nisbet.
Captain for the day Paul Hanlon led out an attack-minded Hibernian side, but it was the visitors who could so easily have opened the scoring inside the first minute.
Ross Millen’s cross from the right - played in between Ofir Marciano and his defence - was missed by Nicke Kabamba in the middle and Rory McKenzie could only find the side-netting at the back post.
It would prove a costly miss as Hibernian broke the deadlock just two minutes later.
Nisbet’s threaded ball split the Killie defence and Boyle took it beyond Kilmarnock’s debutant goalkeeper, Jake Eastwood, before side-stepping Kirk Broadfoot and slamming into the net, despite the efforts of Stuart Findlay on the line.
The home side looked to add a quickfire second with Joe Newell dragging a shot from the edge of the box just wide of goal before moments later forcing a fine save from Eastwood with a terrific curling effort.
New recruits Wright and Gogic then linked up to create another opportunity for the hosts with the former Accies man heading just wide following a cross from the right flank.
Kilmarnock grew into the match and enjoyed a lot of possession, but they were undone on the counter-attack when Hibernian doubled their advantage in the 34th minute.
The Easter Road men broke at speed after Paul McGinn won possession on the edge of his box. He fed Scott Allan, who skipped past Aaron Tshibola before finding Boyle - who shot through the legs of Calum Waters on the angle and into the far corner of the net for his second goal of the afternoon.
Four minutes later and Hibs went close to a third goal when a similar break saw Gogic find Nisbet. The striker’s angled drive went through the legs of Findlay but wide of the far post.
Two minutes from the interval and Hibernian gave away a needless free-kick 30 yards from their goal. Burke stepped forward and smashed an unstoppable strike beyond the helpless Marciano to reduce arrears on his 100th Kilmarnock appearance.
The goal was a welcome boost going into the break for Alex Dyer’s side and during the interval they replaced injured goalkeeper Eastwood with Danny Rogers.
After the break Kilmarnock continued to dominate possession without creating too much from open play.
Following a Burke corner in the 57th minute, Findlay’s lay-off to Rory McKenzie on the edge of the box created a shooting opportunity, but the Killie man was leaning too far back and blasted his strike high over the crossbar.
Kilmarnock were pushing hard for a leveller and almost found one when Hanlon slid in to cut out a Greg Kiltie cross, only to turn it goalward. Thankfully for the centre-back, Marciano was alert to the danger and made a stunning instinctive stop at his near post to keep Hibs ahead.
The goalkeeper was called into action again soon after as Burke let fly with another free-kick from distance. This time it was central and at a good height for Marciano to gather.
With Kilmarnock knocking on the door, Hibs response was to introduce Christian Doidge and Lewis Stevenson into proceedings.
The changes worked and Hibernian started to create openings once again. In the 73rd minute a clever pass from Newell saw Boyle in behind the Killie defence, the attacker lobbed the ball over the advancing Rogers only for it to drop just over the crossbar.
Moments later and Daryl Horgan’s hanging cross found the head of Doidge, who could only head wide of goal.
With six minutes remaining Doidge’s cutback appeared to strike the arm of Broadfoot. The Hibs players quickly appealed for a penalty kick, however this was waved away by referee John Beaton.
Kilmarnock ensured it was a nervy final few minutes for Hibernian with substitute Danny Whitehall going close with a header and McKenzie trying his luck from distance.
Yet, Hibernian held firm to claim full points on the opening day of the new campaign for the fourth season-in-a-row. Next up is Saturday’s trip to Livingston.
Hibernian: Marciano, McGinn, Porteous, Hanlon, Wright (Stevenson 68), Gogic, Allan (Horgan 60), Newell, Doig (Doidge 68), Boyle, Nisbet (Hallberg 87). Unused substitutes: Dabrowski, McGregor, Gray, F. Murray, Gullan.
Kilmarnock: Eastwood (Rogers 46), Broadfoot, Power, McKenzie, Kiltie (Brophy 73), Kabamba, Findlay, Waters, Miller, Tshibola (Whitehall 82), Burke. Unused substitutes: McGowan, Dicker, Ibsen Rossi, El Makrini, Cameron, Brindley.
Referee: John Beaton.
Report: Richard Payne.