A double from Rudi Skacel helped Hearts to record a comfortable victory at home to Aberdeen and confirm their place in the top six of the SPL.
This was the Dons’ third defeat on the trot and left them seven league games without a win with their Scottish Cup semi-final with Hibs looming.
Much of the early play centred on midfield where Aberdeen outnumbered their rivals by one — with Darren Mackie and Peter Pawlett supporting lone striker Scott Vernon when the opportunity allowed.
Hearts opted for a more traditional 4-4-2, with Craig Beattie and Skacel charged with the responsibility of probing the Dons’ back four.
Not that there was a great deal of opportunity for Vernon or his Dons counterparts to pose a significant threat, given the pattern of play.
With the game crying out for someone to break the midfield stranglehold, Kari Arnason offered a ray of hope after 17 minutes. But the Icelander hit his 25-yard effort wide of the target.
Hearts full-back Danny Grainger didn’t come much closer a short time later. His free kick from the right edge of the 18-yard box offered no menace whatsoever, the ball flying high and wide.
Team-mate Ryan McGowan was much more clinical in the 27th minute to claim only his second goal of the season after scoring against Hibs at Easter Road earlier in the campaign.
Grainger atoned for his earlier wastefulness when he delivered a corner kick from the right to the back post.
McGowan was first to attack the ball and he was rewarded when his header found its way into the roof of the net despite the efforts of the visiting defence to clear it.
Aberdeen tried to respond in the 38th minute but Beattie thwarted them with a clearance after Pawlett had teed up Andrew Considine from a corner on the left.
Hearts winger Andrew Driver caught the Dons defence off-guard two minutes after the restart when he suddenly broke down the left and delivered a low cross in the direction of the far post.
With Considine desperately trying to retrieve the situation, Skacel just failed the reach the ball. Had he done so, it would have required a simple tap-in.
Driver replicated the move moments later, but this time his cross was well defended.
But Aberdeen were unable to offer any resistance after 53 minutes, when Skacel claimed his 12th of the season with a fiercely-struck drive from 25 yards into the top-left corner of the net after he was teed up by McGowan.
With Aberdeen incapable of offering any kind of response, Hearts looked comfortably in control and keen to add to their tally.
They might have done so in the 74th minute when Skacel buzzed menacingly, but a posse of defenders combined to scramble the ball clear.
Aberdeen sent on Russell Anderson in place of Clark Robertson 14 minutes from time in an effort to achieve greater solidity at the back.
But he could do nothing to prevent Skacel hitting his second after the Dons defence failed to clear Driver’s ball inside and Skacel showed a lovely first touch before finishing from ten yards.
Hearts: MacDonald, McGowan, Grainger, Webster, Barr, Zaliukas, Hamill, Black, Beattie, Skacel, Driver.