Hearts were edged out 3-2 at St Johnstone in a pulsating Betfred Cup tie at McDiarmid Park.
Callum Paterosn cancelled out Danny Swanson’s opener before Jamie Walker gave the Jambos the lead, but a second Swanson goal equaled things up before Brad McKay nodded the winner.
Robbie Neilson made three changes to the side that was narrowly defeated against Celtic three days. Alim Ozturk returned from suspension to take the place of the injured Faycal Rherras, while Prince Buaben and Robbie Muirhead slotted in for Sam Nicholson and Robbie Muirhead.
The woodwork denied Hearts an early lead. Conor Sammon capatlised on a loose pass to drive forward and ping an effort from 20-yards only to see the ball crash off Alan Mannus’ right-hand post.
Despite a positive start the Jambos fell behind on ten minutes. A free-kick 25-yards was knocked backwards to Swanson who, from all of 30-yards, curled an unstoppable right-foot effort into Jack Hamilton’s top right-hand corner.
Hearts had their fair share of possession as they went in search of an equaliser but the Saints defence marshaled them well. The hosts’ Chris Kane picked up a loose ball and carried it towards the edge of the Hearts box before lashing wildly over on the half hour mark.
Saints tried their luck from distance again moments later. Blair Alston gathered the ball 25-yards out and curled an effort target but Hamilton turned it around the post.
A wonderful set piece effort from Muirhead in the 42nd minute brought about a great save from Mannus, but Walker managed to collect and move it back to Igor Rossi who looped a cross into the box and Paterson rose above the defence to power home a well-deserved equaliser.
Bang on the half-time mark Hearts were awarded a penalty. Paterson drove into the Saints box and was blocked in his path by Brian Easton, leaving Walker to send the ‘keeper the wrong way from the spot and give the men in maroon the lead.
Hamilton was tested early in the second-half when Easton forced his way through the Hearts defence and rifled a shot goalward from the edge of the box but the Jambos’ no. 1 made a fine block.
Moments later Swanson’s rolled corner to Liam Craig saw Hamilton magnificently tip the ball over the ball.
Not to be deterred, Hearts continued to press. Some powerful play from Don Cowie deep in the Saints half saw him cutback for Sammon at the edge of the box but his snapshot was inches wide of Mannus’ right-hand post.
Sammon was on fire by this point, terrorising the home defence. He latched on to a through ball and muscled past substitute McKay and into the box, only to fire into the side netting.
With 16 minutes remaining St Johnstone were awarded a penalty of their own when Ozturk scythed down Swanson inside the box, and the former Hearts man dusted himself down to tuck the ball away into Hamilton’s bottom left corner.
Playing with their tails up, Saints took the lead in the 79th minute. Swanson’s corner from the left was met by McKay who thundered home a header to put St Johnstone 3-2 up.
Hearts couldn’t get a foothold back into the game as Saints held out and the Jambos exit this season’s Betfred Cup in the round of 16.
St Johnstone: Mannus, Scobbie (McKay, 46'), Alston, Anderson, Wotherspoon, Swanson, Shaughnessy, Paton, Easton, Kane, Craig (MacLean, 66'). Subs: Clark, Millar, Coulson, Hurst, Comrie.
Hearts: Hamilton, Paterson, Ozturk, Souttar, Rossi, Djoum, Buaben (L. Smith, 82'), Cowie, Walker (Watt, 62'), Muirhead (Nicholson, 62'), Sammon. Subs: Noring, Oshaniwa, Nowak, Zanatta.
Referee: Crawford Allan
Top Man: Conor Sammon