After a derby defeat by Hibs the previous Saturday and astonishing upheaval behind the scenes in midweek, Hearts dismantled a Dundee United side with embarrassing ease.
Two days after the match, ex-Dundee midfielder Graham Rix was appointed manager, replacing caretaker boss John McGlynn. But McGlynn, who was to go on and have a second spell as Hearts manager, could have been rightly proud of his side’s performance.
Hearts started at a whirlwind pace and stormed into the lead through the impressive Paul Hartley. After Saulius Mikoliunas had driven at the United defence, his clever reverse pass at the edge of the penalty area found the on-rushing Scotland internationalist, who slipped in a shot from 12 yards.
The Taysiders almost struck back immediately, but striker Lee Miller’s unconvincing header from a Barry Robson cross went wide of the target.
In the 15th minute, Hearts defender Takis Fyssas moved up to send a speculative 30-yard shot inches over the bar. Rudi Skacel then came close with a fierce shot that Derek Stillie kept out with his elbow.
United were putting the home side under increasing pressure but fell further behind when they failed to deal with a Skacel free-kick.
The Czech internationalist chipped in from around 35 yards in the hope of finding the head of one of his team-mates but the cross carried through untouched until the flailing Stillie helped the ball into the net.
Just before the interval Skacel’s angled shot from the bye-line had Stillie saving again before the danger was eventually cleared by David McCracken.
In the 50th minute, Robson, drew a great save from Craig Gordon with a curling shot from 25 yards, which the Scotland cap flew through the air to clutch but, in the 57th minute, the home side made sure of the points when Michal Pospisil added a simple tap-in.
Hartley was once again involved, charging down Alan Archibald’s attempted clearance then squaring the ball 12 yards out for the Czech striker to stroke past Stillie.
In the 66th minute, Steven Pressley clumsily tripped Robson inside the area and the United midfielder tookthe spot-kick himself.
Robson’s powerful drive down the middle was brilliantly parried by Craig Gordon and the keeper was equal to Robson’s second attempt with the head.
In the 82nd minute, Pospisil headed Mikoliunas’ cross against the bar from only ten yards out before carelessly sending the rebound over.
Then Stillie made a fine double save, first from Callum Elliot and then substitute Stephen Simmons. The result put the Tynecastle side three points clear of Celtic.
Hearts: Gordon, Neilson, Fyssas, Pressley, Webster, Skacel, Hartley, Mikoliunas, Pospisil, Elliot, Brellier.