Fletcher opened the scoring for Hibs at Easter Road
Steven Fletcher scored a fortunate winner off his shoulder as Hibernian won a rip-roaring Edinburgh derby that both sides finished with 10 men.
Fletcher connected with Alan O'Brien's cross and the ball went in off the bar after 14 minutes at Easter Road.
Goalkeeper Janos Balogh was sent off for pulling down Fletcher and Hibs' Sol Bamba followed for chopping Christian Nade on the stroke of half time.
Nade squandered Hearts' best chances as Hibs claimed the city bragging rights.
It ended a run of five Edinburgh derbies without defeat for Hearts and Mixu Paatelainen's first win against their rivals as Hibs boss meant his side narrowed the gap on third-top Hearts to nine points.
Hibs captain Rob Jones had made a timely recovery from injury to replace Darren McCormack, who collided with advertising hoardings during the 1-0 win away to Hamilton 10 days ago.
And the re-formed Hibs defence was immediately under pressure, with Michael Stewart deflecting a low Andrew Driver cross just wide of the front post.
But the home side responded in great style with Derek Riordan firing a 25-yard drive that cannoned off the angle of post and bar.
And Hibs took the lead after 14 minutes, when Fletcher's attempt to head an O'Brien cross came off his shoulder, looped over Balogh and in off the underside of the crossbar.
Hearts squandered a great chance to equalise when Nade, who had been chosen ahead of Adrian Mrowiec up front, intercepted Bamba's slack back-pass but was unconvincing in his attempt to round Grzegorz Szamotulski and had his effort blocked by the goalkeeper.
The visitors suffered another blow after 25 minutes when Driver, who had been giving Bamba a torrid time down the Hibs' right, had to go off injured and was replaced with Saulius Mikoliunas.
Balogh was sent off for hauling down Fletcher outside the box
But the action continued to swing from end to end and Nade was again guilty of being tentative in front of goal, this time finding his close-range effort blocked by Jones after being set up superbly by Lee Wallace.
Hearts looked to be dead and buried when Balogh was sent off for chopping down Fletcher after the striker was sent clear through the middle by Colin Nish on the stroke of half time.
Jamie MacDonald was sent on to take his place in goal, with Bruno Aguiar the unfortunate outfield sacrifice.
That decision was clear-cut, but Hibs strongly disputed the red card that completed Bamba's miserable day, although it looked like the defender was the last man as he tripped the rampaging Nade 25 yards from goal.
There was still time before the break for Stewart to force Szamotulski into a fine one-handed save from the midfielder's powerful 20-yard drive, which was diverted on to the far post.
Paatelainen replaced striker Nish with defender David van Zanten for a second half that began in more leisurely fashion.
Both sides took time to settle after an action-packed first-half stoppage time, but soon the 20 remaining players began to exploit the extra space and Stewart again forced Szamotulski into a couple of saves from long range.
MacDonald had looked nervous as Hibs pumped crosses into the box without much real poise, but the stand-in goalkeeper did superbly to deny Fletcher's attempt curl the ball home from 15 yards, turning it wide after the striker was put clear on goal.
A looping header from Nade came off the crossbar five minutes from the final whistle as Hibs survived later pressure to secure victory.
Hibernian manager Mixu Paatelainen
"These games mean everything to us, the supporters and so many people, and it's a fantastic feeling to win the game.
"These matches are always hectic, with plenty of tackling, incidents and mistakes because of the atmosphere.
"But we passed the ball well, we were very mobile, with plenty penetration. That was our plan and it worked.
"I felt that their goalkeeper's sending off was clear-cut, but Sol Bamba's was more of a collision and he was not the last man. I think the referee wanted to level things out."
Hearts manager Csaba Laszlo:
"We had opportunities to score through Christian Nade and Michael Stewart.
"You must put the ball in the net. If you score, you have an easy life, but we didn't do that today.
"If you lose a derby, it's painful. I hope we have more luck in the nine league games we have left."
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.