Hearts went down 2-1 away to Dundee United on Saturday afternoon.
Guy Demel’s opener was pegged back by Jamie Walker’s equaliser, but Paul Paton’s stunning volley late on sealed all three points for United, with both teams having a man sent off.
Robbie Neilson made five changes to the side that dropped out of the Scottish Cup in midweek; Alim Ozturk and Juwon Oshaniwa returned to the defence in place of Igor Rossi and Callum Paterson, Prince Buaben and Sam Nicholson slotted in for Miguel Pallardo and Arnaud Djoum, while Dario Zanatta was handed his first start in the place of Juanma.
A drab opening quarter of an hour saw little in the way of goalmouth action. That was until the 17th minute when Scott Fraser’s corner was met by Edward Ofere at the near post, but Neil Alexander produced a stunning save to claw the ball off the line and around the post.
Alexander was called back into action on the half hour mark, making a smart block from Guy Demel’s powerful header after the midfielder got on the end of Blair Spittal’s swinging cross into the middle of the box.
Hearts’ first real chance of the game came after 38 minutes. Gavin Gunning’s hospital pass out of the back was pounced on by Nicholson, who darted forward and unleashed a low, 20-yard shot, which flew just past Eiji Kawashima’s left-hand post.
A minute later things got a whole lot harder for the Jambos when Jordan McGhee received a second yellow, after fouling Ofere in the Hearts half, leaving the Gorgie boys to play the next 50 minutes with ten men.
Moments later, John Rankin cut inside from the right and weaved his way into the box before placing a low shot off the far-hand post.
From the resultant corner, United took the lead. Demel rose to power home Scott Fraser’s corner at the near post, rising highest amongst a sea of white and tangerine shirts.
It took the Jambos only three minutes into the restart to get back on level terms. Substitute John Souttar’s long ball to the edge of the box was expertly taken down by Walker, who then strode into the box before firing high beyond Kawashima and into the roof of the net.
The hosts nearly regained the lead in the 68th minute. Ryan Dow beat Blazej Augustyn to the ball and tried to chip Alexander – who had rushed to the edge of his box – from 25-yards but the ball fortuitously bounced in the six-yard box and over the bar.
Chances were few and far between as the game went on, with Paul Dixon cutting inside and hitting from distance with his right foot, only to blast well over from 30-yards.
Hearts went close with three minutes remaining, when Abiola Dauda got on the end of a long ball and ran through on goal at an angle, but his drive was stopped first time by Kawashima.
United then went up the park and scored the winner in spectacular fashion. The ball spun out to Paton 25-yars out and he smashed a stunning volley past the despairing Alexander and into the net.
Substitute Henri Anier was then given his marching orders with a second yellow to set up a frantic final few minutes, however the Jambos couldn’t find that elusive second goal.
Dundee United: Kawashima, Paton, Rankin, Ofere (Anier, 72'), Durnan, Gunning, Spittal, Fraser, Donaldson, Sinama-Pongolle (Dow, 59'), Demel (Dixon, 53'). Subs: Zwick, Dillon, Knoyle, Riski.
Hearts: Alexander, McGhee, Ozturk, Augustyn, Oshaniwa (Rossi, 46'), Buaben (Djoum, 75'), Cowie, Nicholson, Walker, Zanatta (Souttar, 43'), Dauda. Subs: Hamilton, Pallardo, Reilly, L. Smith.
Referee: Kevin Clancy
Top Man: Jamie Walker