Craig Levein’s return to the Hearts hot-seat ended in some frustration after Aberdeen goalkeeper Joe Lewis denied the Jambos in a goalless draw at Murrayfield.
The former Scotland boss, previously in charge of the Tynecastle club from 2000 until 2004, added the managerial post to his director of football role after the departure of head coach Ian Cathro, claiming he had missed being in charge of matchdays.
All the managerial emotions must have returned in the first of three home games played at the base of Scottish rugby while Tynecastle’s main stand is being refurbished, as Lewis kept the Gorgie side at bay with several outstanding saves.
And when the Dons keeper was eventually beaten by a long-range drive from Hearts striker Isma Goncalves in the second half the crossbar came to his aid with Derek McInnes’ second-placed side fortunate to leave with their unbeaten start to the league season intact.
There were some new faces on show as goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin and midfielder Ross Callachan were handed their Hearts debuts. Dominic Ball, on loan from Rotherham, started for the first time for the Dons, who had Adam Rooney back in attack.
Aberdeen brought around 7,000 fans to the 67,000-capacity venue which, even though was less than half-full – 24,248 was the official attendance – still provided a good atmosphere as the visitors started with purpose.
Less than two minutes had been played when Pittodrie striker Stevie May raced into the box and lobbed the ball over Hearts keeper McLaughlin – but Rooney headed wide under pressure from Jambos skipper Christophe Berra with the Dons player claiming he was pushed.
Moments later, Hearts’ attacker Jamie Walker tangled legs with Dons defender Anthony O’Connor inside the Aberdeen penalty area but referee Craig Thomson ignored penalty claims.
Hearts began to play themselves into the game and the visitors had Lewis to thank for going into the interval goalless.
On the half-hour mark he parried a 20-yard free-kick from Walker and then dived low to his right to push a 25-yard drive from Goncalves round the post.
Lewis then stretched to brilliantly tip a curling shot from Walker over the bar although the first half ended with McLaughlin stopping a Shay Logan drive from 10 yards with his foot.
The secondhalf began with Lewis saving a Berra effort from a corner and then, in the 55th minute, he made another great save, blocking Callachan’s shot from close range after he had been set up by Goncalves.
Another diving save from Walker followed at the expense of a corner and in the 63rd minute, after the visitors needlessly lost possession, Goncalves strode forward to send a shot crashing off the Aberdeen crossbar from the edge of the box before he was almost immediately replaced by Kyle Lafferty.
Hearts kept pressing for the opener and Logan robbed Lafferty of a good chance six yards from goal after a good cross by Callachan. before Lewis blocked Don Cowie’s header from eight yards in added time to complete a fine individual performance.