Paulo Sergio steered Hearts into the Europa League play-off round in his first game as manager with a comprehensive and stylish defeat of Hungary’s Paksi at Tynecastle.
The new boss, who replaced former manager Jim Jefferies just a day after he and Billy Brown were sacked by owner Vladimir Romanov, endeared himself to the Hearts support after a fine display by his side.
The rout rendered the advantage of Jamie Hamill’s first-leg away goal in the 1-1 draw in Szekesfehervar irrelevant, even though Daniel Bode headed in an 89th-minute consolation for the visitors.
A first victory of the season, ending an 11-match winless run, saw Hearts progress to the play-off round alongside Clydesdale Bank Premier League champions Rangers and the previous season’s runners-up Celtic.
Continual fouling by Paksi allowed Danny Grainger to find his range at set-pieces, where Hearts were always dangerous.
After Ryan Stevenson’s near miss from an Ian Black free-kick and the departure of his strike partner Stephen Elliott after 13 minutes, Hearts went in front from Grainger’s delivery.
Former Ayr utility man Stevenson rose highest to meet Grainger’s inswinging corner six yards out, but Paks goalkeeper Norbert Csernyanszki should have done better than the weak left hand which allowed the ball to bounce into the net.
Grainger fired narrowly wide from a free-kick which went under the Paks wall soon after before Istvan Sipeki dragged an effort wide after 45 minutes for the visitors.
The counter-attack saw the hosts go two up as Hearts goalkeeper Marian Kello pumped the ball down the other end. John Sutton, on for Elliott, shaped to shoot before playing a neat pass for Stevenson to net from a narrow angle on the left of the area.
Hamill came on at half-time in place of captain Marius Zaliukas, who apparently was unable to recover from a knock sustained at the end of the first half. Hearts’ reshuffle, with Adrian Mrowiec moving into defence and Hamill lining up in midfield, was almost immediately exposed as Bode dribbled through and was allowed to shoot just wide.
However, five minutes into the second half Hearts netted a third goal to all but finish the tie. Stevenson played the ball into Sutton with his back to goal and the striker laid it off for Driver to net in off the bar.
Csernyanszki saved with his legs from David Templeton soon after, before Black headed over from a long Grainger throw-in.
Skacel was on hand to prod home after Csernyanskzi failed to deal with Templeton’s effort, before Paks pulled a goal back at the death when Bode headed in Tibor Heffler’s free-kick, but it was little consolation for Paks as Hearts progressed.
Hearts: Kello, McGowan, Grainger, Jonsson. Mrowiec, Zaliukas, Driver, Black, Stevenson, Elliott, Templeton.