Kyle Lafferty scored his seventh goal of the campaign in front of the watching Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill as Hearts claimed a hard-fought 1-0 win over St Johnstone in their penultimate match at Murrayfield.
The 30-year-old showed terrific awareness to turn home an instinctive drive in the closing stages, albeit he was aided by a massive deflection off the unfortunate Joe Shughnessy.
Harry Cochrane almost added gloss to the scoreline, rattling the base of the post with the last kick of the game.
Hearts’ second successive league win sees them surge into the top six of the Ladbrokes Premiership, leapfrogging St Johnstone, and provides perfect preparation for Tuesday’s Edinburgh derby against Hibernian.
Lafferty was first to threaten, heading wide from a superb John Souttar corner in a rare moment of excitement in the forgettable opening exchanges.
While the Saints were failing to test Jon McLaughlin between the sticks for Hearts, Tommy Wright’s men were knocking the ball about nicely and successfully taking the sting out of the game, much to the frustration of the Hearts supporters.
There was a dearth of action until Isma Goncalves cut in from the right flank and teed up Jamie Walker, although the forward’s low drive was saved at the near post by Alan Mannus.
From the resulting corner, Christophe Berra rose highest to force Mannus into action again.
Hearts sent 16-year-old Cochrane on in place of Prince Buaben for the second half and it took just five minutes for the Jambos to carve the visitors open.
A swift counter-attack saw Walker send Isma scampering through on goal, however his effort was tame and easily gathered by Mannus.
Former Hibs youngster David Wotherspoon finally called Jon McLaughlin into action when he cut in from the left wing and stung the palms of the Hearts number one.
With 15 minutes remaining, Hearts settled a scrappy contest with a suitably ugly goal.
Cochrane’s speculative drive from 40 yards was controlled by Lafferty and the big striker spun in the box before firing beyond Mannus via Shaughnessy – giving O’Neill food for thought ahead of next month’s World Cup play-off against Switzerland.
Cochrane almost doubled Hearts’ advantage on the break but his low shot thumped the base of the post.