There have been a number of outstanding games in this wretched Covid-19 disrupted season which have deserved to have thousands of screaming fans present inside the stadium to savour them.

The dramatic Scottish Cup quarter-final between Hibernian and Motherwell at Easter Road tonight was one.

Hibs looked to have secured a place in their third semi-final since competitive action resumed in this country back in August – they took part in a last four game against their city rivals Hearts in last term’s rescheduled competition at Hampden in October – after taking a two goal lead.

Christian Doidge and Jackson Irvine, somewhat controversially as he had appeared to be offside, both netted in the second-half to put Jack Ross’s side in a commanding position with 10 minutes left.

However, Graham Alexander’s team refused to lie down and accept their fate. Ricki Lamie quickly pulled one back and replacement Tony Watt equalised with just two minutes remaining to take a thrilling encounter to extra-time.

Neither team could find the target in the added half an hour and it went to penalties. When Mark O’Hara shelled over the crossbar from 12 yards out and Steven Lawless hit the post Hibs had a gilt-edged chance to finally progress.

But Liam Kelly denied Kevin Nisbet and Christopher Long made no mistake. Then Ryan Porteous stepped forward and made it 4-2 with his first spot kick in the senior game. It brought to an end quite a contest.  

Hibs had taken control of proceedings from kick-off. Martin Boyle and Nisbet both flashed dangerous crosses across the Motherwell six yard box in the opening 10 minutes. But nobody was able to get on the end of them and give them an early lead.

Nisbet, who went into the match after scoring three times in as many games to take his tally for the 2020/21 campaign to 17, flashed a powerful effort just wide of the left post from the edge of the Motherwell area in the 22nd minute.

He hurt himself in a collision with Allan Campbell in the process and took some time to get back up. The Scotland forward has few concerns for his personal wellbeing when there is a chance to net.

It looked like it would just be a matter of time before Ross’s men edged in front, but referee John Beaton was unimpressed when Boyle went to ground n the visitors’ penalty box following a challenge by Nathan McGinley and allowed play to continue.  

Alexander’s charges came back into the match a bit. Long jinked forward and was only prevented from getting a shot on target by a timely intervention by Porteous. And the forward teed up Campbell for an attempt shortly after that Matt Macey did well to parry.

Hibs, though, finished the first-half with a flurry. Doidge glanced a Joe Newell delivery just wide and Irvine nodded a Boyle cutback over. It was no surprise to those inside the deserted ground or watching at home on television when Hibs edged in front just seven minutes int the second-half.

Alexander won’t enjoy watching back the opener. Nobody closed down Paul McGinn wide on the right flank or picked up Doidge as he ghosted into the Motherwell area. The striker had the simplest of tasks to head beyond Liam Kelly

The Welshman could have added another four minutes later after Boyle had supplied Irvine and the Australian midfielder had nodded the ball down to his feet. However, he scooped over the crossbar.

Out of nowhere, Motherwell nearly levelled. Devante Cole burrowed past Paul Hanlon and looked a certainty to slot past Macey. The former Arsenal keeper did superbly to narrow the angle and divert wide for a corner.

Alexander threw up Watt for Tyler Magloire and Lawless for Robbie Crawford in an attempt to haul Motherwell level. But Hibs went further in front with 10 minutes remaining when Boyle and Nisbet combined brilliantly to set up Irvine for a second.

It looked very much as if the scorer had been offside. But the match official allowed his close-range strike to stand. Motherwell appeared to have no chance of salvaging the tie. Ricki Lamie, though, gave them a lifeline just three minutes later when he volleyed deftly into the bottom right corner. Watt got on the end of a Stephen O’Donnell ball with two minutes left and headed beyond Macey.

Extra-time was cagey with few chances. But in the second period Lawless was just inches away from turning an O’Donnell cross in and Kelly denied Boyle well after Lamie and McGinley had gifted Nisbet possession. There was an almighty stooshie at the very death when Melker Hallberg took exception to a professional foul from McGinley as he broke upfield.

Both sets of players squared up to each other and it took some time to restore order. Beaton showed Halberg and McGinley yellow cards and Alex Gogic, who had had his name taken in the first-half for scything down Crawford, was sent off for a second bookable offence. The tie then went to penalties.

Boyle and Hallberg both buried their spot kicks for Hibs and Cole confidently dispatched his effort for Motherwell. But O’Hara shelled over the crossbar and the home team had the advantage. McGinn made it 3-1 and when Lawless struck the post Nisbet had the chance to send his side to Hampden. Kelly saved. Long made it 3-2, but Ryan Porteous made no mistake.