Hearts produced a stunning, late fightback to keep their hopes of a top-six finish alive prior to the SPL split.
Their Rugby Park hosts held a two-goal advantage heading into the final ten minutes and would’ve all but secured their place in the top half had it not been for a terrific response from Craig Levein’s Jambos.
Fifth-placed Killie were two points clear of Hearts at the start of the match and looked set to extend their advantage to five only for captain Steven Pressley and Finnish internationalist Tommi Gronlund to complete the turnaround.
Home boss Bobby Williamson made two changes, with young winger Stephen Murray and Alan Mahood returning for Kris Boyd and Jesus Sanjuan. Hearts were without on-loan striker Ricardo Fuller and influential midfielder Steve Fulton, while Gronlund dropped to the bench. Andy Webster, Stephane Adam and Alan Maybury came in to start.
The visitors began brightly and Scott Severin flashed a left-foot volley just past the post after just 40 seconds. Kilmarnock goalkeeper Gordon Marshall needed to be alert to save from his own player as Peter Canero connected with Adam’s cross.
The game was flowing from end to end and Garry Hay’s free-kick broke to Mahood in the box, but the midfielder’s effort took a deflection to spin just wide of the post. Canero blazed his shot over after 22 minutes as Killie again went close to breaking the deadlock.
Hearts full-back Stephane Mahe fired the visitors in front after 40 minutes with a wonderful piece of control and finishing.
The way the Frenchman controlled Maybury’s cross with his left foot before switching it to his right and pulling the trigger from a range of 16 yards was quite spectacular.
Killie didn’t deserve to be behind at the interval and Hay’s effort that clipped the crossbar in the 43rd minute was worthy of an equaliser. But Kilmarnock didn’t have to wait long to redress the balance, squaring the match within 60 seconds of the restart. Whatever Williamson said in the dressing-room at the interval certainly worked as Ally Mitchell’s cross was directed into the net by Craig Dargo.
Kilmarnock were fired up and they capitalised on their enterprising start to the second period by taking the lead after 51 minutes.
Murray’s cross was partially cleared, but Canero played the ball back into the danger area and Tommy Johnson produced a left-foot finish.
Killie doubled their advantage after 66 minutes when Murray played a neat one-two from the corner with Dargo to give himself the angle and curled a wonderful left-foot shot past Antti Niemi and into the top corner of the net. It was difficult to imagine that Hearts would recover sufficient composure to come back from such a blow.
However, Marshall was adjudged to have fouled young substitute Graham Weir in the box and Pressley dispatched the penalty kick emphatically home after 82 minutes.
The visitors stunned the home crowd with just five minutes remaining when Gronlund’s shot took a wicked deflection and looped over Marshall and into the net.
Hearts: Niemi, Maybury, Mahe, McKenna, Pressley, Webster, Severin, Simmons, Flogel, Wales, Adam.