Ten-man Hearts claimed a deserved victory over Ross County after coping magnificently under intense pressure following Conor Randall’s 64th-minute red card.
The Tynecastle side were the better team until losing the on-loan Liverpool player and thereafter showed admirable resilience to see out their first win since defeating Hamilton Accies last month.
Jamie Walker scored what proved to be the decisive goal shortly before Randall’s dismissal after Esmael Goncalves’s first-half goal was instantly cancelled out by Davis Keillor-Dunn.
Hearts made two changes to the side that lost at Dundee a fortnight previously, with Prince Buaben and Don Cowie replacing injured pair Aaron Hughes and Ross Callachan.
Their first chance came in 16 minutes when Goncalves glanced a header wide from Randall’s cross. A minute later Walker fizzed a powerful strike just over the crossbar after creating space for himself 20 yards out.
The visitors were enjoying the best of the early play and Cowie rasped a low shot inches wide from just outside the box after running on to a lay-off from Kyle Lafferty.
Hearts deservedly went ahead with a fine breakaway goal in the 33rd minute when Michael Smith released Jamie Walker, who burst forward before playing an unselfish pass across the penalty area for Esmael Goncalves, who kept his composure to step inside his marker before stabbing home from close range.
County equalised immediately, however, after Davis Keillor-Dunn shot home from close range after the otherwise impressive Randall failed to deal with Jason Naismith’s cross from the right.
Hearts were forced into two half-time changes, with impressive midfield duo Cowie and Harry Cochrane forced off through injury. They were replaced by teenage duo Jamie Brandon and Euan Henderson.
The Tynecastle side started the second half strongly and deservedly restored their lead in 59 minutes when Walker fired high into the net from ten yards out after good work by Lafferty and Randall to set him up.
Just as Hearts looked like they might be about to seize full control, however, they were dealt a major blow in the 64th minute when Randall was sent off after collecting a second yellow card for a foul on Jim O’Brien.
The visitors came under intense pressure for the remainder of the match but produced a hugely spirited and mature performance to see out a fully-deserved victory.
Ross County (4-1-4-1): Fox; Naismith, Fraser, Davies, Van the Weg; O’Brien; Gardyne (Mckay 77), Draper (Schalk 69), Lindsay, Keillor-Dunn; Curran (Mikkelsen 63). Subs not used: McCarey, Kelly, Chow, Dow.
Hearts (4-2-3-1): McLaughlin; Randall, Souttar, Berra, Smith; Cowie (Henderson 46), Cochrane (Brandon 46), Buaben, Walker; Goncalves (Grzelak 67), Lafferty. Subs not used: Hamilton, Milinkovic, Stockton, Petkov.
Ref: Willie Collum