Despite a brave performance it was ultimately a disappointing afternoon in Govan for Hibernian following a 2-1 defeat against Rangers at Ibrox Stadium.
Goals from Joe Aribo and Ryan Kent ensured the champions maintained their perfect home record, yet it was a game Hibs perhaps should have taken something from.
The Easter Road men created several opportunities throughout an impressive 90 minutes where only a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping from Allan McGregor denied them.
Striker Kevin Nisbet claimed his 15th goal of the season with a wonderful header late on, yet a deserved equaliser proved elusive, and Hibs left Govan empty handed.
Jack Ross made just one change to his side following their Scottish Cup victory over Queen of the South last Monday, with Ofir Marciano returning in goal.
Amongst the Hibs substitutes was youngster Ethan Laidlaw. The Academy graduate was involved with the senior matchday squad for the first time, just two months after penning his first professional contact.
The match kicked off with the park bathed in spring sunshine and the game took its time getting into any meaningful rhythm as both teams patiently probed for an opening.
It took until the 17th minute for a shot at goal to be registered. Ryan Kent’s effort from distance well off target.
Less than a minute later and Jackson Irvine forced Allan McGregor into a save with a disappointing shot from the edge of the Rangers box that lacked the power or placement to test the home goalkeeper.
The hosts had the ball in the Hibs net in the 19th minute when Steven Davis threaded an excellent ball into the feet of Alfredo Morelos, the striker angled a drive beyond Marciano towards the back post where it was turned in by the offside Kemar Roofe.
Rangers did not have long to wait until they could celebrate a goal as they made the breakthrough less than a minute later.
Marciano did brilliantly to keep out a header from Roofe, only for Rangers to quickly recycle possession and when Morelos’ cross was blocked, Aribo spun to volley the ball into the far corner of the Hibs net.
Despite the set back Hibs continued to press their opponents and had Rangers on the back foot in the final quarter-of-an-hour of the halve.
Hibs should have made more of an opportunity when Ryan Porteous played a wonderful diagonal ball in behind Borna Barisic for Martin Boyle to chase. With Christian Doidge and Nisbet away a cutback, the winger twice struck the first man.
More quick thinking from Joe Newell saw Nisbet peel away from his marker to collect a perfectly weighted ball, the striker opted to take it early and although he beat McGregor, the ball fizzed just wide of goal.
The movement of the Hibs frontline was causing Rangers problems and another ball from Irvine in behind Barisic released Boyle. The winger powerful struck for goal only for Filip Helander to deflect it just wide of the target.
From the resultant corner kick Paul Hanlon got above Roofe only to head wide of goal as Hibs kept pressing for an equaliser.
They almost found only in the final seconds of the first half when Nisbet pounced on a mistake from Barisic and tried to pick out strike partner Doidge only for McGregor to throw himself down on the driven cross.
Alex Gogic and Nathan Paterson scooped efforts off target in the opening minutes of the second period as both teams returned with attacking intent.
Rangers doubled their advantage in the 61st minutes when Kent peeled off the right flank, coming inside before stepping away from Newell and Gogic before slamming an unstoppable finish beyond Marciano.
The loss of the second goal was harsh on a Hibs side that had more than matched the champions. Yet, just as they did in the first half, Hibs responded well to the loss of the goal by taking the game to their opponents.
McGregor had to be at his best to keep Hibs at bay as he beat away a rasping shot from Boyle on the angle, before making a fantastic save to deny an equally impressive free kick from Nisbet soon after.
From the resultant corner kick Ryan Porteous headed into the Rangers net only for his celebrations to be cut short as referee Don Robertson penalised the defender for a push on Helander.
With 12 minutes remaining Hibs finally reduced arrears when Paul McGinn’s cross was glanced beyond McGregor by a wonderful header from Nisbet.
The Hibs striker becomes only the third opposition player to score in the league at Ibrox as he notched his 15th of the campaign.
With nine minutes remaining substitute Ianis Hagi fired a free kick through the Hibs defensive wall with Marciano making a comfortable save low to his right.
Hibs pressed for what would have been a deserved leveller in the closing stages, however Rangers held on for victory.
Rangers: McGregor, Patterson, Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Kamara, Davis (Zungu 88’), Aribo (Arfield 71’), Roofe (Itten 88’), Kent, Morelos (Hagi 71’). Substitutes not used: McLaughlin, Bassey, Simpson, Stewart, Wright.
Hibernian: Marciano, McGinn, Porteous, Hanlon, Boyle, Irvine (Magennis 78’), Gogic (Hallberg 83’), Newell, Doig, Nisbet, Doidge (Cadden 65’). Substitutes not used: Macey, Gray, Wright, Stevenson, McGregor, Laidlaw.
Referee: Don Robertson.
Report: Richard Payne