Hearts ran out winners over Dundee United in a five-goal thriller at Tannadice on Sunday afternoon.
Dylan Levitt's early opener was cancelled out by Liam Boyce's close-range effort before half time. The Jambos got their noses in front when Josh Ginnelly rounded the keeper to score before Ryan Edwards' 25-yard strike restored parity. With eight minutes remaining, substitute Ellis Simms slammed an unstoppable effort beyond Benjamin Siegrist to seal all three points.
Robbie Neilson made four changes to the side that defeated Hibernian in last week’s Scottish Cup Semi-Final at Hampden. Craig Halkett, Stephen Kingsley and Andy Halliday missed out altogether whilst Ellis Simms took a place among the substitutes as Taylor Moor, Gary Mackay-Steven, Aaron McEneff and Josh Ginnelly took their place in the starting eleven.
The hosts came flying out the traps and having missed two big chances, they took the lead inside four minutes when Dylan Levitt rolled the ball into the left corner from close range after a Tony Watt pass from the right side of the box.
The Jambos had a chance to pull level on six minutes as a Liam Boyce lay-off found McEneff on 20 yards, however, his effort flew just wide of the top right corner.
The boys in maroon were forced into an early change on 15 minutes when McEneff pulled up with a thigh injury with Ben Woodburn replacing him.
It was an open game by this point and Boyce went close on 20 minutes as a wonderful McKay pass saw him race into the box only for Siegrist to palm away his effort. Seconds later, a Mackay-Steven cutback found Haring who volleyed wide from the edge of the box.
Into the final 15 minutes of the first half and United had Mulgrew to thank for keeping Hearts at bay. Boyce beat the keeper to an aerial challenge and Ginnelly’s volley was cleared wide by a diving Mulgrew header.
Minutes later an Atkinson cross found Boyce at the back post but his header was cleared out for a corner as the Jambos ramped up the pressure.
Hearts’ dominance paid off on the stroke of half-time. Atkinson drilled a ball across the face of goal and Boyce timed his run perfectly to poke the ball past Siegrist at the near post. It was then nearly 2-1 as Atkinson powered a shot wide from a tight angle seconds before the half-time whistle.
The second half was just four minutes old when a long ball set Ginnelly free in the box; the winger found himself at the tightest of angles and saw his volley crash off the near post. He was causing the United backline all sorts of problems and five minutes later, he was twisting and turning on the right side of the box before forcing a fine save from Siegrist.
On the hour mark, his persistence paid off as he latched on to a long ball from Alex Cochrane before expertly rounding the keeper to tap in from close range.
United responded positively, however, and hauled thmselves level on 65 minutes as Ryan Edwards' long range strike found the bottom left corner.
The manager introduced Ellis Simms with 20 minutes to go but it was Barrie McKay who went close on 76 minutes, driving through the middle before seeing a shot deflect inches past the top right corner. Shortly after, Boyce found himself in space on 10 yards, however, an outstretched leg denied his low effort.
It was then Simms' turn to make his mark as a threaded ball from McKay released him on the left side of the box and a thunderous finish saw the ball crash into the roof of the net to put the Jambos ahead once again.
That was all she wrote as the Jambos left Tayside with all three points and - with third place already secured - a mammoth 19-point gap between themselves and closest challengers United.
Dundee Utd: Siegrist, Smith, Mulgrew, Niskanen (Freeman '60), Clark (McNulty '70), Edwards, Levitt, Mochrie (Meekison '70), Graham, Watt, McMann. Subs not used: Eriksson, Sporle, Neilson, Thomson, Moore, Anim.
Hearts: Gordon, Sibbick, Moore, Cochrane, Atkinson, McEneff (Woodburn '15), Haring, Mackay-Steven, Ginnelly (Simms '71), McKay, Boyce. Subs not used: Stewart, Devlin, Tait, Rathie.