Goals from Bruno Aguiar and Christos Karipidis elevated Csaba Laszlo’s side to fourth place in the SPL as Hearts made wasteful Kilmarnock pay for missing a host of chances.
The Jambos had suffered a four-game goal drought in the league prior to this fixture at Rugby Park and they again struggled here until showing remarkable resilience. Kilmarnock had been first to threaten when Garry Hay’s 30-yard free-kick was easily handled by Jamie MacDonald in the Hearts goal after seven minutes.
However, Hearts were also looking dangerous and Portugese midfielder Aguiar whipped in a cross from the left that flashed across goal with David Obua lurking. Home keeper Alan Combe was making his return from injury and he had defender Hay to thank for clearing after failing to collect from Andy Driver’s corner.
Kilmarnock could have taken the lead when Danny Invincibile scampered into the box, but MacDonald saved after Eggert Jonsson’s tackle. The visitors survived another scare on the half-hour when attempts from Frazer Wright, Craig Bryson and Invincibile were blocked following a corner.
Jim Jefferies’ Killie should have gone ahead when David Fernandez was played in by Bryson, but the Spaniard shot high and well wide from the edge of the box with just the keeper to beat. The Rugby Park men were well in command though, but squandered another opportunity when Hay picked out Invincibile at the back post and he should have at least hit the target instead of nodding wide. There was a further effort on goal for the home side before half-time when Manuel Pascali could not get any power on his header after Invincibile’s cross from the right.
Hearts, now with the wind at their backs, started strongly after the interval but still could not trouble Combe and the increasingly influential Fernandez came close from long range after cutting in following a short corner.
The visitors took the lead in the 61st minute, though, after their first incisive move of the game.
Michael Stewart burst forward and exchanged passes with Aguiar before slipping the ball inside to the midfielder, who fired into the corner of the net from 20 yards out.
Kilmarnock’s Allan Russell sliced wide after Hay’s cross had missed everyone else and the striker then headed the ball away from goal after Invincibile helped a corner into the danger area.
Hearts made Kilmarnock pay for their profligacy again as Stewart sent in a free-kick that Christophe Berra headed across goal for Greek defender Karipidis to nod home ten minutes from time. They may even have added to their lead, but Combe blocked well from Christian Nade after Pascali’s misplaced pass had set up the Hearts striker.
Hearts: MacDonald, Neilson, Berra, Karipidis, Thomson, Obua, Aguiar, Stewart, Driver, Nade, Jonsson