But the fact that the Gorgie side have no-one breathing down their neck in the chase for a third may have coaxed them into a subconscious state of ease, and with Dundee fighting for survival that was always going to be dangerous.
So it proved, as Robbie Neilson’s men were left to rue their bad luck and lack of ruthlessness when they gave up a well-deserved one-goal advantage and were forced onto the back foot as the Tayside team knocked them off balance with an equalizer when Paul McMullan and Danny Mullen combined to send a deflected shot off Toby Sibbick in off the underside of the bar. They then nudged their way into the lead when the home defense was dragged all over the place and substitute Niall McGinn fired in a cross for Mullen to rattle high into the net.
Looking to bounce back and make amends for the 5-0 loss to Rangers at the weekend, the Tynecastle side quickly took control of proceedings, with Barrie McKay in mercurial form at times, as he teased and tested the side bottom sitting of the league.
The former Rangers winger is still looking for his first goal for the club and came agonizingly close in the first half. Had one of his efforts found the net, the outcome could have been very different and knowing that it will only add to the 28-year-old’s frustration.
On a night where the crowd was subdued it was the Hearts players who generated the early frisson of excitement.
But they should have known it probably wasn’t going to be their night when the first shot at goal, courtesy of Andy Halliday, caught his team-mate Liam Boyce flush in the face.
But they did enough to cause a few jitters in the visitors’ goal, as Ian Lawlor dropped a Halliday cross into his box and, as it spun back towards the line, the Dundee keeper was fortunate he was far enough from the line for the ball to be cleared.
But Hearts still should have been out of sight for half-time. As McKay was denied on a couple of occasions. But, having dance through the Dundee defense in the 21st minute, he threaded the perfect ball through to Ellis Simms and he slotted the opener through Lawlor’s legs.
McKay then had another effort cleared off the line.
But having passed up chances they were punished as Dundee came back at them after the interval, grabbing two goals, in the 51 and then 78th minutes.
It was a jolt and Hearts boss threw on Josh Ginnelly, Ben Woodburn and Gary Mackay-Steven as he tried to retrieve the situation but despite some chances, including a Taylor Moore header at the death, Hearts were left to count the misses and deal with the angry boos that rained down on them at the final whistle.
While Dundee walked off buoyed by their second away win of the season and moving off the bottom of the table.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.