He thought he was in for a dream afternoon when Anthony Stokes scored after only 12.4 seconds, the fastest goal in SPL history.
But Rangers then netted four times without reply to make it a testing return to the side for young defender Hanlon.
Since breaking into the first team almost two years ago, the teenager has found himself a bit-part player at the capital club.
And, after his latest outing coincided with Hibs' first defeat in 13 SPL matches, he could be forgiven for fearing another lengthy spell on the sidelines, starting with Sunday's visit of Hearts.
But, with Sol Bamba now on African Nations Cup duty with Ivory Coast, Hanlon looks set for a second chance.
Having played in only one of the seven derbies that have taken place in the last two years - and that at Tynecastle - it is an opportunity he is determined to take.
"If I get the nod in the next game then I'll try to do my best," he said.
"Obviously, if I do well, I'll be looking to keep my place in the team.
"That's the manager's decision so I've just got to do my best whenever I play."
Hanlon may have been making his derby debut this weekend but for a raft of suspensions ahead of Hibs' trip to Gorgie in May last season.
"We won at Tynecastle when we had so many players missing so obviously I'll be wanting to keep a 100% record in derbies if I play," said Hanlon, who revealed it would "mean a lot" to finally experience one at Easter Road.
"The atmosphere's electric; it's the same in every derby I've been at. I've been to watch loads so I know what it's like.
"Playing at Tynecastle, it was brilliant to get the three points and we're looking to be doing the same."
He added: "It's a massive day for all the fans, especially just after new year as well.
"It's a big one, so we'll all be focused on that game now and looking forward to it."
The postponement of tonight's trip to St Johnstone has given John Hughes' men extra time to stew over the Rangers result, which appeared to end any title pretensions third-placed Hibs may have had.
Full-back Hanlon said: "We let them score too many easy goals.
"If we want to finish in third place then we've got to show character now and come back and put that right."
Hanlon will have been relieved to hear Hughes rubbish reports today he was set to sign Sunderland defender Russell Anderson.
The youngster was also buoyed by recent comments from his manager that he deserved a recall sooner than the Rangers game.
He added: "It's frustrating but I've had nothing to complain about.
"I thought I was doing all right in reserve games but when the team's not conceding goals and they're not getting beaten then you've not got a leg to stand on really."