The spoils were shared at a sun-kissed East End Park, with Hearts moving 11 points clear at the top of the league. A win on Friday at home to Alloa Athletic could be enough to secure the title next weekend depending on results 24 hours later.
Neither team was able to break the deadlock in an even match in Fife, although Hearts claimed vociferously ten minutes before full-time for a penalty when they alleged that Dunfermline’s Scott Banks handled the ball in the box.
The draw was as improvement on Hearts’ past two defeats and, while admitting he wanted all three points, Neilson looked on the positive to moving closer to promotion back to the Premier League.
“You always want to come and win games and today we played against a team that were stuffy and made it difficult for us to play,” said Neilson. “We had 12 shots at goal but weren’t able to put the ball in the net. The objective at the beginning of the season was to win the league. We’ve taken a small step towards that. We’d have liked to have taken a bigger one but it now puts the game on Friday night under the spotlight.
"Dunfermline started the game looking to take a point. They sit in, try and hit you on the counter and make it very difficult. Although we had a lot of possession in good areas, the final ball just wasn’t good there. We now need to focus on Friday night. We’re 11 points clear and a chance to go even more on Friday. We’re counting the games now.”
When quizzed about the penalty claim, Neilson added: “No point in talking about it now. We’ve found it difficult this season with some of the decisions from referees. Especially down that end, if you’ve got 3,500 Hearts fans shouting for it then you’ve probably got a better chance of getting it. From our perspective recently it’s had to be a decapitation to get a penalty.”