Hibs’ hopes of automatic promotion received a massive boost thanks to a victory over Dundee United following an ill-tempered 90 minutes at Tannadice earlier tonight.

Referee Don Robertson showed twelve yellow and two red cards as well as sending Neil Lennon to the stand near the end, but when the dust finally settled, it was the visitors who secured all three points.

Lennon made one change to the starting XI with Darren McGregor returning from suspension in place of Jordon Forster.

Lewis Toshney was fortunate to escape a card following a reckless challenge on Andrew Shinnie however the referee showed no mercy when he did it again a few minutes later.

Jason Cummings then broke clear of the United defence but was wrongly flagged offside, much to his annoyance,

On the half hour mark, Toshney again flew into a tackle on Shinnie and although he tried to pull out at the last minute, his trailing leg caught the Hibs’ midfielder and he was sent off.

Eight minutes later Hibs took a deserved lead when Jason Cummings beat the offside trap and latched onto a superb pass from Shinnie before firing a sensational half volley high into the net leaving Cammy Bell helpless.

Hibs should have had a penalty just before the break after Cummings was bundled to the ground by William Edjenguele, but referee Robertson waved away the appeal.

Hibs continued to dominate possession and should have wrapped things up in the 67th minute when David Gray headed the ball into the path of Martin Boyle but the winger fired over the bar from 10 yards..

With Hibs coasting to victory, two moments of madness from Cummings changed the course of the game.

After being flagged offside, he picked up the ball and demonstrated his frustration by throwing  it to the ground, earning a yellow card, then moments later he pushed a Gray cross into the net with his hand and was ordered off.

United then went route one and started pumping high balls into the Hibs’ penalty box but McGregor and Man of the Match Efe Ambrose easily dealt with everything that the Tangerines could muster.

With time running out Bell produced a world class save to deny Shinnie then just before the end Lennon was ordered to the stand but by the time he walked along the touchline, the referee blew for full time sending Hibs nine points clear of Falkirk, ten points clear of Dundee United who have a game in hand and 12 points clear of Morton who have two games in hand.

After the game, Lennon defended Cummings and praised his played for their performance. He told BBC Scotland:”Jason’s got to learn to control his temper.I’ve been there – I got many a telling off from Martin O’Neill in my younger days – but he’s an outstanding talent and he’s come up with a really big goal in a big game and he does it consistently and it’s not a coincidence.

“We were outstanding. The only disappointment was the sending off really, which put us on the back foot for 10 minutes.The rest of the game, we played really strongly and we looked a very good side. Thoroughly deserved to win.

“I wanted them to put down a marker for the rest of the season and hopefully they’ve done that.It is a difficult place to come and win, but I thought we were head and shoulders above Dundee United.

“I underplayed it this week, but it is probably the biggest game we’ve had league wise for two or three seasons and they’ve responded brilliantly.”

Dundee United: Bell, Dixon, Durnan, Toshney, Murray, Fraser (van der Velden, 84), Nicholls, Edjenguele, Flood, Andreu (Mikkelson, 63), van der Struijk. Unused substitutes: Zwick, Dillon, Murdoch, Telfer, Robson.

Hibernian: Marciano, Gray, McGregor, Ambrose, Stevenson, Bartley (Fyvie, 68), McGinn, Boyle (Forster, 87), Shinnie, Holt (Graham, 79), Cummings. Unused substitutes: Laidlaw, Keatings, Crane, Martin.

Referee: Don Robertson

Attendance: 9,532