Raith Rovers 1-1 Hearts: Skacel and McManus earn Rovers a replay
Rudi Skacel's introduction as a substitute helped Raith Rovers force a Scottish Cup replay against Hearts as Declan McManus scored a last-minute equaliser.
Jamie Walker's first-half goal looked sufficient to put the visitors through at Stark's Park until Skacel and McManus climbed off the substitutes' bench. Skacel's volley from a corner was headed home by McManus to earn Raith a last-gasp draw and a replay at Tynecastle on Wednesday.
The Czech is a Tynecastle idol for his part in two Scottish Cup-winning campaigns but he has now given Championship club Raith a second chance to eliminate his old club.
All four of Hearts' new signings started the game, three of them in defence. Andraz Struna, Aaron Hughes and Lennard Sowah lined up beside John Souttar, with Malaury Martin supporting lone striker Bjorn Johnsen.
Hearts' new-look defence brought added intrigue to a cup tie already generating plenty interest. Around 4,000 visiting fans arrived in Kirkcaldy after their team's three week break eager to see the new recruits, and perhaps sneak a glimpse at an old one.
Skacel was named amongst the Rovers substitutes and was preparing to face his beloved Hearts for one last time - if given the opportunity by manager Gary Locke. The former Tynecastle manager was hoping to cause an upset against his former employers and, in the process, end a miserable run of form which had seen his current team winless since October.
Jason Thomson sat also on the home bench. Kevin McHattie was the only former Tynecastle player in the starting line-up, with recent signing Ryan Stevenson cup-tied.
A predictably competitive start saw both teams try to win possession and play the ball around. Raith fashioned a half chance on ten minutes when midfielder Ross Callachan delivered a low cross but lone striker Stewart couldn't convert. Martin then tried an effort from distance for Hearts, which soared high into the stand.
Perry Kitchen came tantalisingly close to opening the scoring on 19 minutes. The Hearts captain rose to win Martin's corner but his header bounced wide of Kevin Cuthbert's left post. It was notable at that point that the Edinburgh side's deliveries from wide areas - particularly the right - were troubling the home defenders.
That said, it was a move through the middle which produced the game's first goal. Rovers' midfield were playing very deep and inviting Hearts on to them and that let to little time on the ball for their players.
Under pressure, Jordan Thompson played a blind pass across midfield which Don Cowie intercepted. The former Scotland midfielder stroked a diagonal through pass for the onrunning Walker to control and slot into the net from eight yards. It was a confident finish from the Premiership club's top goalscorer.
Those in the home technical area could only cover their faces, knowing their players had engineered their own downfall eight minutes from half-time. Raith continued sitting deep in their own territory at the start of the second period but then emerged from their shell.
Their first attempt at goal arrived on 46 minutes when Callachan volleyed wide. Thompson had another attempt off target as the Hearts defence, marshalled impressively by Hughes, found themselves straining slightly.
They were carved open in the 57th minute when McHattie skipped clear of John Souttar on the left and squared the ball for Stewart. Despite being six yards from goal and unmarked, the forward somehow contrived to strike the ball against the crossbar. It was a quite astonishing miss and Struna cleared for a corner.
Hearts goalkeeper Jack Hamilton then produced two excellent one-handed saves in quick succession. First he thwarted Callachan and then Iain Davidson with a levelling goal looking increasingly probable. The visitors composed themselves, though, and entered the final stages trying to see the match out. Raith introduced Skacel and Declan McManus hoping to prise a replay.
The ploy worked. On 89 minutes, a corner landed with Skacel on the far edge of the penalty area and he swivelled to execute a first-time volley. As the ball screamed towards goal, McManus flicked it into the net beyond Hamilton from close range.
Stark's Park erupted - and Raith celebrated their right to a replay at Tynecastle.
Raith (4-1-4-1): Cuthbert; Davidson, M'Voto, Benedictus, McHattie; Matthews; B Barr, Callachan, Thompson, Johnston; Stewart.
69: Hardie for Johnston
80: Skacel for Thompson
80: McManus for Stewart
Unused subs: Brennan, Thomson, Roberts, C Barr.
Hearts (4-1-3-1-1): Hamilton; Struna, Souttar, Hughes, Sowah; Nowak; Cowie, Kitchen, Walker; Martin; Johnsen.
86: Zanatta for Walker
90: Sammon for Johnsen
Unused subs: Noring, Beith, Smith, Godinho, Currie.
Referee: John Beaton.