Hearts ended a run of three straight defeats to secure a most welcome three points in a bad tempered encounter at Pittodrie, courtesy of Kevin Kyle’s second-half header.
Aberdeen had been struggling prior to this encounter and the result meant Mark McGhee’s men had taken just one point from their last six SPL matches.
Former Hearts striker Andrius Velicka, who had been injured since joining on loan from Rangers, made a surprise first appearance, while Sone Aluko was back from his injury troubles along with former Tynecastle midfielder Paul Hartley.
The first half was more blood and thunder than goalmouth fireworks with a series of bookings, flailing elbows, tousy challenges and moments of petulance overshadowing any attempts at creativity by last season’s two most indisciplined sides in the SPL.
Jam Tarts midfielders Rudi Skacel and Suso Santana both left the field for treatment to bloodied head wounds, while the latter was lucky not to find himself in referee Mike Tumilty’s book after stupidly slapping Aberdeen defender Rory McArdle on the back of the head as he left the field for treatment.
Kyle was similarly fortunate after the Hearts striker barged into Zander Diamond behind Tumilty’s back after complaining that the Dons defender had over-reacted to a high challenge.
There were, however, moments in a game featuring seven yellow cards that threatened to batter the back of the net and most of those came from the visitors.
Dons keeper Mark Howard kept his side level with fine stops to deny close-range efforts from Calum Elliot and Suso, who had returned to the midfield along with Ruben Palazuelos.
The men from Gorgie had themselves sprung a surprise with the inclusion in defence of Velicka’s Lithuania team-mate, Marius Zaliukas, who had previously been left out because of a contractual dispute.
The defender was rarely troubled in the first half, although Chris Maguire threatened with a low drive shortly before the break. Howard received treatment on the stroke of half-time after falling awkwardly under pressure from Kyle and a couple of his own defenders.
Still perhaps feeling the effects of his knock, the keeper was beaten moments after the interval when Elliot crossed for Kyle and unmarked eight yards out, his diving header broke the deadlock. McGhee immediately replaced the obviously troubled Howard with Jamie Langfield and hauled off the ineffectual Velicka for Darren Mackie.
Langield himself recovered after picking up a shoulder injury saving low at the feet of Skacel, but it was Hearts who were reeling as Aberdeen started to exert some pressure.
Despite this, Hearts continued to create the better chances on the break.
It needed a block by Andrew Considine to prevent Kyle finding the net again from ten yards after the striker was found by a low ball from Suso after the weaving winger tricked his way into the box past four defenders. Suso was injured in that sequence and his replacement, Stephen Elliott, immediately headed over when found unmarked in the area and Ryan Jack headed a Kyle header off the line at the death.
Hearts: Kello, Barr, Palazuelos, Bouzid, Mrowiec, Zaliukas, Santana, Jonnson, Kyle, Elliot, Skacel.