Hearts marked their winning of the Scottish Championship with a ruthless and clinical display against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
At a sun-kissed Tynecastle Park a superb attacking performance from the Jambos was highlighted by two fine goals from Gary Mackay-Steven, his first for the club, inbetween an Aaron McEneff strike.
There was just the one change from the side that drew 0-0 with Greenock Morton at Cappielow Park on Tuesday night, as Mackay-Steven came into the side partnering Armand Gnanduillet up front as Liam Boyce continued in his supporting striker role tucked in behind.
The visitors, chasing a crucial win in the hunt for the Scottish Premiership play-offs, started brightly and nearly took a lead inside two minutes, when a corner was played short to Scott Allan, and the on-loan Hibs midfielder narrowly shot over the bar.
The warning proved as a wake-up call to Hearts, and it spurred them into life. Peter Haring played a ball to Mackay-Steven on the right wing, and his first touch immediately took him past his marker at hurtling towards goal. He beat another man, and let fly from 20 yards, hard and true into the bottom corner past Mark Ridgers.
Four minutes later, they doubled the lead with Mackay-Steven involved again. He played a ball through the Inverness defence for Boyce, who reversed a pass back to Aaron McEneff and the midfielder hammered a low shot beyond Ridgers with the aid of a slight deflection.
Hearts were flying now and Mackay-Steven was at the heart of it, drawing a crude foul from David Carson which saw the Inverness man booked. Then, it should have been three. After some neat play between Andy Halliday, Haring and Mackay-Steven on the left wing, the Austrian midfielder whipped a superb cross in that just evaded Gnanduillet at the back post.
That was a delay to the inevitable however, and Hearts made it three on the half hour mark. Gnanduillet flicked on a long ball with his head, Mackay-Steven outpaced his marker and got there before Ridgers to lift the ball over the keeper and into the net.
McEneff was hungry for more goals too, and twice troubled Ridgers in the hunt for more goals. First, he hit a first-time effort from range with his left foot that Ridgers held, before driving at goal and striking an attempt that Ridgers did well to push away as the half ended.
Into the second half, and Inverness began to push harder to get back into the game but that was leaving space at the back, and Hearts almost took advantage when Mackay-Steven was played in behind by Boyce, but his precise cutback wasn’t met properly by Gnanduillet.
Hearts introduced skipper Steven Naismith to the field shortly after the hour mark to freshen things up front, but it was Inverness who nearly reduced the arrears when Allan whipped in a free kick that Miles Storey met with a header off the bar, although the flag did go up for offside.
Mackay-Steven was involved in the action yet again with twenty to play. Naismith slid a lovely pass through for the forward, who passed across goal for Boyce and, on the stretch, the Northern Irish striker saw his effort rebound off the post and away as he hunted his 17th goal of the season.
The Jambos then introduced sixteen-year-old Performance School starlet Finlay Pollock for the last ten minutes and let the youngster run freely without pressure for the remaining time, and he did his chances no harm with a bustling all-action display that had his teammates loudly complimenting his endeavour, and indeed, he nearly got in on the goals in stoppage time when he ran onto a Boyce header, but Inverness were able to clear before any more damage was done on a fine afternoon for Hearts.
Hearts: Gordon, Smith, Souttar, Haring (Irving, 40'), Gnanduillet (Naismith, 65'), Boyce, Logan, Halliday, Mackay-Steven (Pollock, 80'), McEneff, Halkett. Subs: Stewart, Popescu, Henderson, McGill.
Inverness CT: Ridgers, Carson, Devine, Deas, Harper, Welsh, Allardice (MacGregor, 46'), Allan, D.Mackay, Todorov (Lyall, 56'), Storey (Sutherland, 73'). Subs: C.Mackay, Duffy, McHattie, Vincent.
Referee: Bobby Madden