Hamilton Academical secured promotion to the Scottish Premiership after a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory in the play-off final condemned Hibernian to relegation to the Championship on Sunday. Goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert was the Hamilton hero as he saved spot-kicks from Kevin Thomson and Jason Cummings, sealing a 4-3 shoot-out triumph, after goals from Jason Scotland and Tony Andreu had forced the tie, which finished 2-2 on aggregate, into extra time.
Cuthbert's heroics sent Hamilton back into the top flight for the first time since 2011. Hibs, who have been relegated for the first time in 15 years, will now have to battle it out with fellow relegated city rivals Hearts and Glasgow giants Rangers in next season's Championship.
"This team has had spirit and heart all season and they deserve it because they have been magnificent and I thought we were by far the better side today," Hamilton player-manager Alex Neil said. "I said before the game it wasn't over but everyone had written us off. It's credit to all the players who have been unbelievable all season."
Terry Butcher, whose future as Hibs boss is now in doubt, added: "I have been relegated before as a manager and a player and it's horrible. It was just like watching a car crash today to be honest." Butcher, who only took over at Easter Road last November, added. "It's not just about today, it's about the previous games and we haven't done enough to get ourselves out of trouble. We had it there with a minute to go and then we conceded a goal and I must give full credit to Hamilton who came at us today."
Butcher's side had taken a commanding 2-0 lead into the tie from Wednesday's first leg, but with just four victories at Easter Road this season the home side showed nerves from the start as Hamilton dominated possession.
Hamilton made two changes to the side that had lost at New Douglas Park on Wednesday with Scotland restored to the starting line-up and it took just 13 minutes for the veteran striker to make an impact as he fired his side in front with a superb strike.
Ryan McGivern's slack pass out of defence was intercepted and fed to the forward who beautifully turned his man before scoring with a fine low strike. Hibs had a chance to level the tie three minutes later when the ball fell nicely to Scott Robertson 25 yards out but his volley was well saved by Cuthbert.
Only the outstretched boot of Ben Williams kept Hibs from falling further behind in the 22nd minute when he stopped Louis Longridge's effort after he had been played in by Darian MacKinnon. Hibs almost found themselves level against the run of play when Liam Craig's corner found Jason Cummings lingering at the back post but his header was cleared off the line by some desperate Hamilton defending.
The Championship side picked up where they had left off in the first half and almost instantly grabbed another when Scotland showed great skill in the box to turn two defenders but his shot was blocked by the legs of Williams. Hamilton brought on Mikael Antoine-Curier to join Scotland in attack before player-manager Neil came on for only his third appearance in the past six months as they pushed forward in search for the vital second goal, which eventually came three minutes into stoppage time.
Ziggy Gordon played in Scotland whose cut-back from the by-line was met by Andreu who slammed the ball past Williams. There were no further goals in extra time, before Cuthbert produced heroics to stop Thomson and Cummings' penalties to help his side to a promotion that left Hibs shattered.