Hearts suffered their first defeat at Tynecastle in a year after being unable to build on a strong first-half performance against Celtic.
The hosts went ahead when Kyle Lafferty smashed in his 18th goal of the season. However, the newly-crowned champions, who had lost 4-0 in Gorgie on their previous visit in December, hit back with goals from Dedryck Boyata, Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair to consign Hearts to their first defeat on their own pitch since they lost to Aberdeen a year ago tomorrow in the final game in front of the old main stand.
The home players formed a guard of honour for their Celtic counterparts as they emerged from the tunnel, but once the match began the hosts set about making life uncomfortable for Brendan Rodgers’ team in the spring sunshine.
After a strong start, Craig Levein’s team thought the had taken the lead in the 15th minute when John Souttar forced in a Don Cowie corner from close range, but the goal was disallowed. TV replays suggested there was little wrong with it and that it should have stood. This setback mattered little to Hearts, however, as they deservedly gained the lead two minutes later when Lewis Moore helped a bouncing ball into the path of Lafferty on the right side of the penalty area and the Northern Irishman took a touch before thrashing an emphatic half volley beyond the helpless Scott Bain.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Celtic equalised four minutes later when Boyata ghosted in at the back post to arc home an angled header from Olivier Ntcham’s free-kick.
Souttar had a let-off on the half-hour mark when he was short with a passback to Jon McLaughlin, but Dembele’s attempted lob from inside the box dropped on to the top of the bar after he had beaten the Hearts goalkeeper to the ball.
After a slack first half in which the hosts had made things difficult for them, the visitors stepped it up a notch after the break and they went ahead in the 52nd minute when Dembele sent a clinical angled shot beyond McLaughlin after good work by Mikael Lustig and Tom Rogic to set him up.
Hearts staged a brief rally late on as they chased an equaliser, but Celtic grabbed a third with the last kick of the game when Sinclair tapped into an open goal after being set up by fellow substitute Stuart Armstrong.
Hearts (4-1-4-1): McLaughlin; M Smith, Souttar, Berra, Mitchell; Adao (Cochrane 70); Cowie, Callachan, Naismith, Moore (Amankwaa 56); Lafferty (Henderson 83). Unused subs: J Hamilton, Hughes, McDonald, C Smith.
Celtic (4-2-3-1): Bain; Lustig, Boyata, Ajer, McGregor; Brown, Ntcham; Forrest, Rogic (Roberts 81), Edouard (Sinclair 54); Dembele (Dembele 61). Unused subs: De Vries, Hendry, Simunovic, Miller.
Referee: Bobby Madden.