Hibernian brushed off a sensational Motherwell comeback to reach the Scottish Cup semi-finals following a penalty shootout at Easter Road.
Motherwell scored twice in the final eight minutes to seal a 2-2 draw but Hibs triumphed 4-2 on spot-kicks to reach the last four for a fourth consecutive cup campaign.
Hibernian looked to be heading to Hampden without much trouble when Jackson Irvine added to Christian Doidge’s opener with 10 minutes left amid offside suspicions.
But Ricki Lamie and substitute Tony Watt scored to send the game into extra time.
After an intriguing extra 30 minutes, there was more drama. Mark O’Hara blazed over and Steven Lawless hit a post to put Hibs in the driving seat in the shootout before Motherwell goalkeeper Liam Kelly saved from Kevin Nisbet.
Ryan Porteous kept his nerve to send Hibs into the semi-finals in a fortnight’s time.
How Hibs edged past Motherwell…
Motherwell continued with the same team and 3-5-2 formation which earned victory at Hamilton and they only came alive after making some attacking changes in the final quarter of normal time.
Hibernian’s attacking triumvirate of Martin Boyle, Nisbet and Doidge had netted all 13 of their team’s goals in the previous six matches and they looked lively in the opening stages.
Boyle and Nisbet put in a couple of dangerous crosses each and the latter fired wide from 22 yards.
Motherwell settled down around the half-hour mark and Allan Campbell forced a decent stop from Matt Macey after driving forward and exchanging passes with Christopher Long.
Doidge and Irvine headed wide late in the half and the visitors stepped up a gear after the interval before taking the lead in the 52nd minute.
Doidge ran on to Paul McGinn’s inviting cross and got beyond Tyler Magloire to head past Kelly from 12 yards.
Doidge soon had a glorious chance when Irvine headed down Boyle’s cross but the striker stabbed over from close range.
Devante Cole created a great chance to level when he skipped past a defender but Macey diverted the shot wide.
Graham Alexander brought on striker Watt, who has been missing recently with an ongoing heel problem, and attacking midfielder Lawless, and brought off defender Magloire and anchorman Robbie Crawford.
But Hibs went two ahead. A deep cross from the left ultimately fell for Boyle, who cut it back for Nisbet after being confronted by Kelly. The striker scuffed a shot which Irvine helped home from inside the six-yard box amid offside appeals.
Motherwell replied inside two minutes. A corner fell for Lamie on the far side of the box and he cushioned a volley over a crowded goalmouth and into the far corner of the net.
The visitors levelled with two minutes left when Watt headed home Stephen O’Donnell’s looping cross.
Joe Newell had a stoppage-time chance to win it for Hibs but Kelly saved to set up another half-hour of action.
Motherwell retained the attack-minded line-up which got them back into the game and it made for an open extra-time.
O’Donnell nearly set up another goal but Lawless and Cole just could not reach his inviting cross and Kelly brilliantly denied Boyle with three minutes left after a mix-up between Declan Gallagher and Nathan McGinley had gifted him a chance.
Tempers frayed in the closing moments after McGinley rugby-tackled Hibs substitute Melker Hallberg, who appeared to kick the full-back.
A shoving match ensued and resulted in a yellow card for the Motherwell full-back and a second yellow card for Alex Gogic, who had to watch his team triumph from the dressing room.
What the managers said…
Hibernian head coach Jack Ross: “For 80 minutes we were excellent and dominant,” Ross said. “In fairness to Graham and Motherwell they made changes and threw caution to the wind but we should still manage the game better.
“They obviously take greater momentum and mentality into extra-time. That’s the danger but for us it was about re-setting and in fairness we did that. We handled that half-hour okay and we showed character in abundance in the shoot-out.
“We had faith in a lot of players to score. It was actually picking five that was difficult rather than finding five to take them.
“Ryan was one that was adamant that he wanted to take one of the first five. That’s him as a character, for a young man he has got a bit about him and technically he is very good so you don’t have any concerns about him handling that sort of pressure.”
Motherwell boss Graham Alexander: “I’m gutted for everybody because I thought the players were magnificent.
“We came with a game plan to frustrate at first, which worked really well, I don’t think they had a shot on target in the first half. But we wanted to create a bit more.
“We took a step back after half-time and allowed them to have easy possession in our half and we were punished. But the reaction from that point was absolutely amazing. The players showed the character to get on the ball, press from the front and showed what a quality team we could be.
“To come back against such a fantastic team away from home in such a pressure game to equalise and I thought there was only one winner from that point. Unfortunately we just couldn’t get that winning goal.”