Motherwell emerged from a tight and entertaining game with a convincing 3-0 win over Hibernian.
A screamer from Sherwin Seedorf midway through the first half was all that separated the sides at the end of a keenly contested first 45.
But another penalty converted by Liam Donnelly, for his eighth of the season, and a terrific finish from Jermaine Hylton had the points well wrapped up before the final whistle.
Stephen Robinson kept faith with the side which won convincingly at Hamilton, the only change being the return of Jake Carroll at left back with Charles Dunne moving to the bench. Richard Tait had also recovered from last week’s virus but the defender had to be content with a seat beside Dunne.
It was a furious opening from both sides, and within 30 seconds Mark Gillespie was forced to dive and beat away a Florian Kamberi shot.
A minute later a neat exchange between Christopher Long and James Scott at the edge of the box opened up the Hibs defence. But having created the space the former Blackpool striker’s side foot from 12 yards was blocked by Ofir Marciano’s outstretched boot.
The Easter Road men had more of the ball and referee Steven McLean allowed them two opportunities to break the deadlock. Despite Liam Donnelly’s tug on Scott Allan, the visitor’s were given the advantage until Daryl Horgan’s shot was blocked inside the box.
The ref then awarded Hibs the free kick. Stevie Mallan whipped the ball over the defensive wall and heading just inside the post until a superb one handed save from Gillespie pushed the ball behind.
Liam Polworth, having recovered from an early knock then slid a superb pass behind Steven Whittaker and into Seedorf’s path but his drive from 18 yards was blocked.
Then in the 22nd minute Hibs almost grabbed a controversial opener. A clear handball from Lewis Stevenson just outside his own box was undetected by the assistant referee. Play then raced down the pitch where Glenn Middleton’s angled drive forced another good stop from Gillespie.
The ‘Well ‘keeper immediately sent play to the other end where Seedorf cut in from the left wing and from the corner of the box sent a sensational drive flying low across Marciano and into the corner of the Hibs’ net.
In a highly open and entertaining first half play continued to race from end to end.
The best chance came ‘Well’s way after 36 minutes. Scott, revelling in his role on the right, cut in and sent a cross field pass to Seedorf. When the Dutch winger cut the ball back from the byeline, Scott had continued his run to the corner of the six yard box, only to scoop his shot over the bar.
Gillespie then made another crucial stop, blocking Kamberi’s powerful angled drive with his right boot.
The Fir Park men finished the first half on the front foot and two successive inviting crosses from Carroll found Long and Scott with neither striker able to direct the ball towards goal.
As the second half got underway, Hibs still looked threatening with some sublime passes from Scott Allan opening up the home defence.
Motherwell’s build up play was equally impressive and slick passing involving Seedorf, Carroll and Long produced first corner of the half.
When Polworth’s corner kick found Declan Gallagher towering beyond the back post, his downward header looked like a second goal for ‘Well until Marciano scooped it up and off his line. The ‘keeper was then relieved to watch Long react inside the packed six yard box only to nod the ball over the bar.
Eight minutes later and Long passed up another great chance to extend the home side’s lead. Peter Hartley’s deflected pass played the striker onside but having time to pick his spot behind the helpless ‘keeper he allowed Marciano to stretch out a leg and force his shot over the bar.
You suspected the Fir Park men might regret those missed opportunities to put the game beyond the Edinburgh side.
In the 63rd minute Scott hurdled a couple of challenges as he galloped down the left but his intended lay back for Long found Seedorf running in front of his team mate and the chance was wasted.
That was the last involvement for the tireless pair as they made way for Devante Cole and Jermaine Hylton in the 65th minute.
The ‘Well winger was immediately involved when he was pulled to the ground by Whittaker as he made his way into the box. While the home fans screamed for a penalty the referee astonishingly awarded the free kick to Hibs.
After 72 minutes Adam Jackson should have had the 1600 Hibs fans behind Gillespie’s goal on their feet celebrating an equaliser but his tame effort from 10 yards afforded the ‘Well ‘keeper a comfortable save.
James Scott, now on the right, was still causing Hibs problems and his clever foot work in the corner after 78 miutes earned ‘Well another corner.
Once agin Polworth found Gallagher’s head and when his goal bound effort clattered off Adam’s raised hand the ref immediately pointed to the penalty spot. Donnelly’s run up was short but decisive as he sent Marciano the wrong way and bag his fourth goal in three league games.
Hylton then cheekily nutmegged Whittaker to find Cole who turned his marker only to see Marciano’s boot deny him his first goal.
The ‘Well defence with Gallagher and Hartley in particular stood tall and strong to any kind of fightback from the visitor’s.
However, any doubts the points were staying at Fir Park were erased four minutes from time with a wonderful solo effort from Hylton. An electric burst of pace took the former Solihull Moors winger inside Horgan before he unleashed a thundering drive which Marciano couldn’t prevent from screeching high into his net.
The Hibs ‘keeper was shaping up as the visitor’s man of the match when he produced another flying save in the dying minutes to turn away another effort from Cole as ‘Well ran out comprehensive winners.