Nick Montgomery hailed the influence of "special" Martin Boyle after the forward helped Hibernian end their seven-game winless run with a narrow victory over Kilmarnock at Easter Road.
The Australia international set up Josh Campbell's winner in a game where quality was in short supply.
Kilmarnock did grow into the contest and had a late spell of pressure, but missed Kyle Vassell's presence up front and were unable to truly test David Marshall, failing to register a shot on target until the 90th minute.
The result lifts Nick Montgomery's side to seventh in the Scottish Premiership, while Kilmarnock drop to sixth.
"Martin is a special player and we have to protect him," Montgomery said. "Coming off in the semi-final (against Aberdeen) he took a little knock.
"We can't take risks on a player of Martin's stature at the club and it was the right decision to leave him on the bench at St Mirren.
"It freshened him up and he has had a disallowed goal, possible penalty call and a couple at the end where he just lost his footing."
In a first half where both sides struggled to create clear-cut chances, it was a rare moment of quality that enabled Hibs to hit the front.
Boyle picked up the ball inside his own half and drove into space, evading several defenders before feeding Campbell on the right-hand side of the box. The midfielder set himself before shooting low into the net.
Hibs could have doubled their lead after the break, as Jair Tavares fired just wide and Campbell forced a sharp save from Will Dennis, but with time running out they went into their shell and let Kilmarnock come on to them.
Montgomery's side have conceded several late goals in recent weeks, dropping points against Ross County and St Mirren and losing the Viaplay Cup semi-final to 10-man Aberdeen, and the nerves around Easter Road were palpable as time ticked away.
However, David Marshall sprung to his right to keep out Rory McKenzie in injury time to ensure that there would not be another dose of late heartbreak.
Player of the match - Martin Boyle
McInnes' away tweak falls flat as Hibs grind it out - analysis
Kilmarnock's away woes since they returned to the top flight are well documented. It's now two wins from 24 road games. Derek McInnes spoke pre-match about changing things up tactically and looking to be more solid away from Rugby Park.
However, all it really did was ensure that Hibs' defensive line had a relatively quiet afternoon. Yes, there was a late surge and a series of corners, but for the vast majority of the contest Kilmarnock were desperately poor in forward areas.
For Hibs, three points was the only thing that mattered. They have performed well at times in recent weeks but their defensive weaknesses have cost them time and again.
Montgomery now has to find a way to grind out wins consistently if his side are to climb the table.
What they said
Hibernian manager Nick Montgomery: "We've had a couple of decisions go against us, but performances have warranted better results. What's important is that we stick to the way we want to play.
"We were our own worst enemy again in terms of not killing the game off, but really proud of the boys. The fans were fantastic and really helped us. A clean sheet and three points - that's the main thing."
Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes: "I thought we were good in the first half. We picked a team to go and press them andwe did that. Hibs are a team of individuals - they can turn half chances into real chances.
"We wanted to try play the game in their half as much as we could, and the one thing we were guilty of was not making the most of our opportunities."
Hibs go to Dens Park after the international break on 25 November (15:00 GMT), while Kilmarnock travel to Ross County at the same time.