On April 6th, 1996 Hearts advanced to the final of the Scottish Cup in the most dramatic of fashions…
Aberdeen and Hearts were neck and neck in the Premier Leageue, with the Dons in third, one place and three points ahead of the Jambos.
Hearts’ run to the semis had seen wins over Partick Thistle, Kilmarnock and St Johnstone, all by single goal margins. Aberdeen, meanwhile, saw off Motherwell, Stirling Albion and Airdrie on their route to Hampden.
The two sides had faced off three times on league duty; Aberdeen claimed two Tynecastle victories while Hearts returned the favour at Pittdorie.
There wasn’t much momentum for either steam heading into this game. Hearts had drawn one, lost one and won one in the three matches between the quarter final and semi final, while the Dons holding the exact same record.
Aberdeen: Watt, McKimmie, Woodthorpe, Glass, Inglis, Smith, Miller, Windass, Bernard, Dodds, Robertson. Subs: Stillie, Grant, Shearer.
Hearts: Rousset, Locke, Ritchie, Mackay, McManus, Bruon, Johnston, Colquhoun, Lawrence, Fulton, Pointon. Subs: Robertson, McPherson, Thomas.
The Scotsman: Hearts clinched their first Cup final spot for ten years following a dramatic conclusion at Hampden Park.
A poor first half saw little action except Joe Miller ghosting beyond Neil Pointon to curl a delicious left-footer that Gilles Rousset tipped round his post.
This incident, seconds prior to half-time, was all Aberdeen had to savour in a tortuously poor opening 45 minutes.
Hearts, to be fair, weren't much better, using Hampden's vast grassland to batter the ball into the air.
Even their one real incision, a swift turn and shot from Allan Johnston, was deflected by a defender before Michael Watt sprawled and clutched.
But at the interval, Jambos boss Jim Jefferies poured out his feelings to players who had looked as if they were halfway towards missing out on a repeat trip to the national stadium.
Jefferies told his young players, including captain Gary Locke with the that there should be no assumptions about there always being next year.
He then addressed the older ones, whose spirit had allegedly been crushed by disappointments suffered during the previous decade, and asked them to have faith in themselves.
Jefferies implored his players to ignore their own feelings of apprehension and attack Aberdeen.
One minute into the second half, Alan Lawrence skimmed past Gary Smith and tore down on Watt before whacking the ball into the side-netting.
With the match looking like heading for a replay, key substitutions were made.
Aberdeen's Duncan Shearer replaced Hugh Robertson after 71 minutes while Hearts legend John Robertson appeared for Lawrence three minutes later.
The two of them then fired this affair with to a grand and astonishing finale.
Robertson, not always in accord with Jefferies about the way the game should be played, had been on the pitch a mere six minutes before he threw himself at a cross and into a melee of Aberdeen defenders to score and once more write a thundering chapter about his place in the life of Hearts.
In that stinging 80th minute, everyone in the ground thought the last word was his.
Shearer, though, had other ideas.
When Stephen Glass' swirling free-kick floated high beyond Gilles Rousset, he leapt a remarkable height to force the ball home.
With just three minutes remaining, Hearts were openly cursing one another, until Allan Johnston, in the last minute, rammed home an unanswerable winner.
It was Robertson who sent over the cross which found goalkeeper Watt and Smith uncertain of who should be doing what.
Johnston knew what he was meant to be doing, though, and he stepped in to head home the winner.
Aberdeen and Hearts continued to duel it out for third place in the league but it would be the Dons who clinched it on goal difference when Hearts could only draw 1-1 at Motherwell on the final day of the season.
Jim Jefferies’ side did secure European football in the form of the Cup Winners’ Cup as they would finish runners-up to Rangers in the Scottish Cup final.
To watch extended highlights of this match on Hearts TV, click here.