Hearts put a dampener on Celtic’s title party with a well-deserved victory that kept alive their hopes of catching Aberdeen for a UEFA Cup qualification place.
Home boss Gordon Strachan rung the changes for the match that would precede the presentation of the Scottish Premier League trophy. Jean-Joel Perrier Doumbe came in to make his debut at right-back, joining Stephen McManus, Lee Naylor, Aiden McGeady and Jiri Jarosik in the starting line-up.
Gary Caldwell, Darren O’Dea, John Kennedy, Thomas Gravesen and Derek Riordan dropped out.
Lee Wallace and injured striker Andrius Velicka missed out for Hearts, with Jose Goncalves and Saulius Mikoliunas coming into the starting line-up.
Hearts’ more defensively-minded formation was quickly under pressure as the Celtic support gave their side a rousing welcome.
Shots from Shunsuke Nakamura, Jarosik and McGeady, plus a header from Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, tested Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon.
Centre-back Stephen McManus failed to hit the target for the home side from eight yards after his head was found from a corner.
Hearts lost Julien Brellier after just 23 minutes, the midfielder being replaced with Tomas Kancelskis.
The Frenchman had been carrying an injury since the early stages and the change appeared to strengthen Hearts’ ability to frustrate an increasingly lacklustre Celtic.
The Jambos made another change at half-time, Wallace returning to left-back in place of Goncalves.
Yet the sedate pace continued after the break, although Celtic were again doing most of the pressing.
However, Hearts broke the deadlock when Nakamura was caught in possession.
Ghanian midfielder Laryea Kingston broke clear, but there looked little danger when his pass reached Kestutis Ivaskevicius.
Yet the Lithuanian striker, who looked lazy and clumsy all afternoon clipped the ball past three defenders and poked it past goalkeeper Arthur Boruc.
Hearts increased their lead four minutes later, when Kingston was upended and Andy Driver curled a Nakamura-like free-kick from 20 yards into the roof of the net.
Celtic were back in the game within two minutes, however, as Nakamura’s cross found former Hearts captain Steven Pressley unmarked seven yards out and he headed home.
Michal Pospisil restored Hearts’ advantage after 71 minutes from the penalty spot. Kingston won it with some sublime skill before he was felled by a Pressley body-check.
Pressley had an effort cleared off the line by Kingston and then forced a fine save from Gordon with a shot on the turn.
But Hearts previaled to within four points of third-top Aberdeen.
Hearts: Gordon, Karipidis, Berra, Zaliukas, Goncalves, Mikoliunas, Brellier, Kingston, Ivaskevicius, Pospisil, Driver