Kilmarnock and Hearts battled away to a 0-0 draw at Rugby Park this evening.
Neither side could find the breakthrough, though both went close in the final few minutes.
Ian Cathro stuck with the same side that defeated Dundee last week at Tynecastle, as the Jambos bid to secure back-to-back wins ahead of the split.
Hearts had the game’s first half chance after 17 minutes. Alex Tziolis’ long ball forward was misjudged by Kristoffer Ajer and Isma gathered possession inside the box, only to screw his effort wide of the target.
Killie carved open the Hearts midfield in the 27th minute with Sean Longstaff afforded space to carry the ball forward and hit a drive from 25-yards, but his effort flew over the crossbar.
The hosts started brightly in the second-half, hitting Hearts on the counter three minutes in. Kris Boyd’s pass sent substitute Dean Hawkshaw clear down the right and his cutback found Callum Roberts inside the box but he dragged his shot narrowly wide of Jack Hamilton’s left-hand post.
Rory Currie was an early introduction for the Jambos, replacing Prince Buaben after 52 minutes as Hearts looked to bolster their attacking options.
Boyd had a chance after 58 minutes, getting on the end of Gary Dicker’s knockdown inside the box but he ballooned his half-volley well over the bar.
Isma did well to get on the end of Tziolis’ 68th minute cross into the box but he couldn’t steer his header beyond Freddie Woodman, who made a comfortable save.
Moments later Arnaud Djoum struck a powerful drive from 25-yards but it flew straight into Woodman’s arms.
Substitute Choulay looked a threat down the right wing and his 74th minute corner found Liam Smith, who headed narrowly wide of the target.
Malaury Martin almost made an instant impact when he came on with nine minutes remaining. He was slipped through by Andraz Struna but snapped at the ball which bounced into Woodman’s path.
Hearts were agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock with five minutes to go. Choulay went on a mazy run and found Isma at the edge of the box and his low drive was deflected inches wide of the target.
There was late drama in the closing stages as either side could’ve snatched three points. A series of backheels saw Hearts break down the right and Smith crossed low to Isma eight-yards out, but the ball went under the striker’s feet.
At the other Boyd went close with a set piece before knocking a header wide at the back post.
Kilmarnock: Woodman, Hendrie, Dicker, Ajer, Taylor, Roberts (Frizzell, 83'), Longstaff (Kiltie, 70'), M.Smith (Hawkshaw, 37'), Wilson, Jones, Boyd. Subs: MacDonald, Osborne, Graham, Cameron.
Hearts: Hamilton, L.Smith, Buaben (Currie, 52'), Nowak, Struna, Tziolis, Kitchen, Cowie (Choulay, 70'), Djoum, Walker (Martin, 81'), Isma. Subs: Noring, Avlonitis, Beith, Johnsen.
Ref: Euan Anderson