Hearts’ unbeaten cinch Premiership run came to an end today after defeat at Aberdeen.
John Souttar’s first-half penalty had given the Jambos the lead but goals from Marley Watkins and Lewis Ferguson ensured a first defeat in 12 games.
Robbie Neilson made two changes to the side that drew with St Johnstone in midweek, with Alex Cochrane and Gary Mackay-Steven coming in for Andy Halliday and Barrie McKay.
A fairly even opening period saw no real goalmouth action with both defences on top. It wasn’t until the 24th minute when someone tried their luck, with Lewis Ferguson trying to curl an effort on target from distance but he fired high and wide.
Three minutes later, Craig Gordon came to Hearts rescue when Marley Watkins was slipped into the box but his low show was blocked by the keeper’s legs.
At the other end, Michael Smith’s corner was headed clear but only as far as Cammy Devlin at the edge of the box, he chested the ball down but hit a wayward shot at goal.
Hearts were beginning to play with their tails up. Mackay-Steven fed Armand Gnanduillet, who played in Josh Ginnelly but from an angle he couldn’t find the target with his effort.
Bang on half time, the Jambos took the lead. Gnanduillet’s pass into the box found Ginnelly, he took the ball around Joe Lewis but was brought down and referee Kevin Clancy pointed to the spot. Souttar stepped up and rifled the ball beyond the Aberdeen keeper to break the deadlock.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as four minutes into the restart the home side restored parity. Ryan Hedges’ looping cross into the box found Watkins, who took the ball down before slamming a half-volley into the top corner of the net.
Gordon then pulled off a fantastic save to keep Hearts in the game. Christian Ramirez was able to create space for himself inside the box before shooting from eight-yards out but the Scotland keeper got down to his right to make a wonderful one-handed save before gathering the loose ball.
By this point, Hearts were weathering a storm. Ramirez again had a shot at goal but this time it was deflected behind.
With 21 minutes remaining on the clock, the home side took the lead when Ferguson powered home a header.
Ferguson would head over the target with minutes remaining, before being on the receiving end of a tackle from substitute Halliday, which earned the Hearts man a red card.
Deep into time added on, Ferguson saw a shot deflected behind as the Dons claimed all three points and Hearts suffered a first league defeat since April.
Aberdeen: Lewis, McCrorie, Watkins (Hayes, 84'), Brown, Ramirez, Hedges, McGeouch (McGinn, 87'), Ojo, Ferguson, Campbell, Bates. Subs: Woods, Emmanueal-Thomas, Gurr, Samuels, Longstaff.
Hearts: Gordon, Smith, Kingsley, Souttar, Baningime, Mackay-Steven (McKay, 57'), Devlin, Cochrane (Halliday, 72'), Halkett, Gnanduillet, Ginnelly (Woodburn, 57'). Subs: Stewart, Haring, McEneff, Moore.
Referee: Kevin Clancy