It was billed as the biggest Edinburgh derby in a generation (they were wrong, but we’ll get to that in May) as Hearts and Hibs met at Hampden for a place in the 2006 Scottish Cup Final.
Season 2005/06 is one that will long live in the memory of Jambos. Though there will always be an aspect of ‘what could’ve been’, a giant rollercoaster ride took Hearts on a journey that no one in Gorgie will ever forget.
League form was impressive. By the time April 2nd came around Hearts were second, three points ahead of third-placed Rangers but with a game in hand.
Across the city, Hibs were in fifth, four points away from Kilmarnock.
The two sides had met three times that season – a 2-0 Hibs win at Easter Road was sandwiched between two Tynecastle demolition jobs with the men in maroon running away with 4-0 and 4-1 victories.
The road to the semis had provided plenty of potential banana skins. Hearts were paired with SPL sides Kilmarnock and Aberdeen in Rounds 3 and 4 but disposed of them 2-1 and 3-0 respectively.
Second Division Partick Thistle proved tricky opponents in the quarter-finals, but Lithuanians Edgaras Jankauskas and Deividas Cesnauskis ensured a 2-1 win and a trip to the National Stadium.
After brushing aside Arbroath 6-0 in the 3rd Round, Tony Mowbray’s side then produced the shock of the round by beating Rangers 3-0 at Ibrox. They hit the goal trail again in the quarters with a 5-1 crushing of Falkirk.
It was Falkirk who entertained Hearts immediately prior to this game with the Jambos emerging with a 2-1 win, while Hibs suffered a 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Inverness CT.
To Hampden, and if nerves were being felt they certainly weren’t being shown, as Robbie Neilson commented prior to the match; "Elvis reminds us that we are second in the league, we are Hearts and we don't fear anybody."
Hearts: Gordon, Neilson, Pressley, Webster, Goncalves, Cesnauskis, Hartley, Aguiar, Skacel, Jankauskas, Elliot. Subs: Banks, Fyssas, Mikoliunas, Pospisil, Camazzola.
Hibs: Malkowski, Caldwell, Murphy, Smith, Glass, Hogg, Whittaker, Thomson, Benjelloun, Sproule, Fletcher. Subs: Brown, Konte, McCluskey, Konde, Shields.
Barry Anderson – The Scotsman: In the end, it all went off rather peacefully. Supporters arrived on time with minimal travel disruption, no trouble inside the National Stadium, no real controversy of note to grab the attention. Just a momentous and rampant Hearts performance.
For a support dragged through the mill more times than a baggy woolly jumper this season, defeat to their Capital rivals and the subsequent concession of a cup final place would surely have been too much to stomach.
As it was, the Hearts players adopted the same defiant attitude as their disciples did when preparing for this unique occasion.
Losing was never an option considered nor mentioned by interim head coach Valdas Ivanauskas as he rallied his players through the previous seven days leading up to the Scottish Cup semi-final.
As all around Edinburgh built themselves up into a frenzy, organising champagne breakfasts in the Capital and overnight stays in Glasgow, the Lithuanian did a commendable job of deflecting attention from his squad.
The successful retention of full focus on the process of eliminating Hibs eventually allowed the 22,500 gathered round Hampden's Mount Florida end to dance deliriously throughout Sunday afternoon and evening as they scattered back to whence they came.
It was as if God himself had peered down on Glasgow's south side around midday yesterday, and after pondering the travails involved in following Hearts this season opted to grant a bunch of truly loyal supporters one truly unforgettable afternoon.
Of course, the Great One was aided and abetted by Paul Hartley, who delivered three moments of divine intervention himself. The consequence for Hibs fans was another Hampden disappointment, one that will rank at the top of their list of cruellest and most painful days following their club.
Yet, their side began the day almost in dominant pose. In the 28 minutes preceding Hartley's nonchalant opener, Hibs had enjoyed the bulk of possession and had Hearts virtually hemmed inside their own half. There were decent chances for Gary Caldwell and Ivan Sproule, with a Steven Whittaker drive sandwiched in between that brought a crucial fingertip save from Craig Gordon.
Hearts, in truth, appeared most in danger of conceding the first goal of the afternoon when they promptly ran up the park and scored it. Rudi Skacel dispossessed the Hibs debutant Abdessalam Benjelloun midway inside his own half and fed instantly to the energetic Hartley. His pass out to the left side found Edgaras Jankauskas in space, but the eye was drawn to Hartley as he continued his penetrating run into the Hibs penalty area.
Jankauskas' return was in the form of a precise cross for the Scotland midfielder to flick with the outside of his right boot, and once the ball had crept past Zibi Malkowski and crossed the goal line via the inside of the post the Hearts celebrations got under way.
His second arrived on 59 minutes, bringing an almost impish look to the face of the former Hibs player. With Malkowski, and to be fair most of the 43,000 inside Hampden, expecting Hartley's left-sided free-kick to be curled into the penalty area to prompt an aerial contest, the midfielder caught the goalkeeper by surprise and swung the ball into the net at the near post.
His third from the penalty spot came three minutes from time after Gary Smith had tugged the shirt of Hearts substitute Michal Pospisil, although the offence occurred outside the penalty area. Smith was instantly dismissed for conceding a professional foul but by that time it was academic, as Malkowski had endured his second nightmare moment only seven minutes previously when he appeared slow to emerge from his box to clear a Rudi Skacel long ball. Edgaras Jankauskas' reactions were quicker, and he took the ball off the Pole's toe before rolling in the third.
The only genuinely nasty incident during the match occurred at a vital juncture. On 77 minutes, with Hearts 2-0 ahead and Hibs seeking an avenue that would take them back into the contest, Ivan Sproule and Saulius Mikoliunas clashed in a tackle and the Lithuanian fell to the turf.
Sproule hadn't fouled his opponent, so what prompted him to blatantly stamp on Mikoliunas' lower back as he attempted to retrieve the loose ball can only be speculated upon. Stuart Dougal issued a deserved instant red card, and Hibs manager Tony Mowbray must have known then that the game was up.
Smith's ordering-off merely compounded the dejection, but by that stage the Hearts end was in full voice.
Webster was partnered by three different players during the 90 minutes, captain Steven Pressley failing to emerge after the interval because of medical rules that govern a second head-knock inside a week. Jose Goncalves, preferred ahead of Takis Fyssas at left-back, moved inside to pair up with Webster as Fyssas slotted in at left-back for the second half.
In the 67th minute, Goncalves suffered a sickening blow to the head when he collided with Craig Gordon's shoulder attempting to clear a cross and was out cold for minutes afterwards.
Upon coming round, he knew nothing of his whereabouts and had his neck put in a brace as a precaution with the Hearts medical staff fearing a fracture.
Fyssas then became Hearts' auxiliary centre-back, with Skacel retreating to left-back.
That the changes seemed to have no effect on Hearts' dominance was a measure of the all-encompassing game they were playing by that stage.
It was certainly too strong for Hibs to contend with, and it has ensured potentially another memorable day for Hearts' support back at the National Stadium on May 13.
What they said
Paul Hartley: I'm absolutely delighted. I looked in the mirror in the morning and told myself it was going to be my day, so to score a hat-trick was tremendous.
Andy Webster: I couldn't believe the atmosphere. Even on the coach on the way to the stadium, and then coming out for the warm-up, we sensed that it was a special day and the fans might have motivated us that little bit extra, if that was possible.
Valdas Ivanauskas: This has been a good day. It's a nice day for the players and the supporters. A crazy result but Wednesday is now our next very important game. Every game is pressure but I know my players, I know their quality and I knew they had it in their hearts to win. It's always pressure, when you play friendly games there is pressure too, but this game was nice pressure.
Michal Pospisil: It was surprising we won 4-0 and I thought, in a semi-final, the winning margin would be two or three goals maximum.
Rudi Skacel: We deserved our win against Hibs and now there is only one team that exists in Edinburgh - the Jambos.
To watch the game in full on Hearts TV, click here.
Just want the goals? Then click here.