St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright believed Florian Kamberi “conned” referee Gavin Duncan to win a penalty which was a “game-changer” in Hibernian’s 2-1 victory.
The hosts took a 15th-minute lead through Chris Kane’s close-range strike and dominated for most of the match but Saints succumbed to their 10-men visitors thanks to a Marc McNulty double.
However, despite confessing his side had also been the architects of their own downfall, Wright aimed his anger at Kamberi.
He claims the Swiss striker was not touched when going down under a Liam Craig challenge to win Hibs’ 65th-minute penalty that allowed McNulty to haul the Edinburgh team level.
He said: “We should have won. We’ve somehow managed to find a way to lose the game. We should have gone two up before half-time and we were under no pressure.
“And then the referee gets conned for the penalty. It’s not a penalty, simple. I don’t blame the ref.
“I’ve watched it back and you’ve got to be embarrassed for the lad, well maybe not, I’m not sure what type of character he is. But he’s conned the referee, simple.
“He’s looked as if he’s been hit by a 40-foot truck.
“The referee feels there was more contact and, yes, the way he went down you would think there was more contact. But I don’t think Liam Craig touches him.
“That’s the game-changer. It’s not the reason why we lost the game but it was a game-changer in terms of them getting back into it.
“We’ve somehow managed to lose a game where we’ve played very well.”
Hibernian manager Paul Heckingbottom saluted his side’s “character” after they survived Vykintas Slivka’s red card to come from behind for the win.
Following McNulty’s spot-kick equaliser, the capital outfit were reduced to 10 men when Slivka earned his second bookable offence inside a 16-minute period.
But McNulty netted his second double in two games when he slipped in a fantastic Stephane Omeonga pass six minutes from time to lift Hibs three points clear of Saints in sixth place.
The victory, maintaining a 100 per cent record for their new manager, will boost morale ahead of Saturday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final against Celtic – and former boss Neil Lennon.
Heckingbottom, who confirmed he is running the rule over out-of-contract former Manchester United defender Jonathan Spector, said: “The most pleasing bit was the character we showed when we went down to 10 men.
“This was a different kind of win but you have to show that if you’re going to get the consistency we’re looking for.
“We have said that the more points we get now the easier it will be towards the end.
“We have dealt a blow to one of our rivals, so of course it’s significant but there are plenty more points to play for.
“We were not at our best in the first half but I felt we improved after that. When we got a man sent off we had to show character and that’s what pleased me.”