Motherwell made it three wins in a week with a narrow but deserved victory over Hearts.
A terrific Christopher Long goal, worthy of winning any game, was all that separated the teams on paper.
But Motherwell expertly managed their lead for a third clean sheet, and three points which hoisted them above Aberdeen to third in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
While Mark Gillespie had only one save of note, the Fir Park men might have added a second and were unlucky to see a goal ruled off for offside.
After forming a formidable partnership with Declan Gallagher against St Mirren, Bevis Mugabi kept his place at the heart of the home defence.
James Scott’s double strike in midweek was enough to see him maintain a starting place. And in the only change, Christopher Long came in for Devante Cole, who moved to the bench.
The current poor away form of managerless Hearts was ignored by the Steelmen, who remembered that on their last visit to Fir Park in August, the Edinburgh men were Betfred Cup winners.
Early play was pacy and positive from both teams, although action around either goal was scarce.
After 16 minutes, clever work from Jermaine Hylton sent Long sprinting down the right hand wing. But after getting the better of Michael Smith the ball just crossed the byline with Scott waiting unmarked on the penalty spot.
Building on the success of Wednesday night, ‘Well tried to utilise Scott wide on the right but despite his trickery the teenager got little change from Jake Mulraney.
Unable to find a decisive pass through the Hearts’ defence, Liam Donnelly attempted to add to his nine goals this season but from 25 yards he pulled his shot well wide of Joel Pereira’s goal.
At the other end, Mark Gillespie was equally untroubled, especially with Hearts’ first effort at goal in 27 minutes, Ryotaro Meshino blasting the ball high into the Davie Cooper stand.
The Fir Park men were determined to work the ball down the flanks to create an opening and were duly rewarded five minutes from the break.
Jake Carroll and Hylton again combined on the left. When the former Solihull Moors winger cut the ball back from the byline, Long swivelled before blasting a left foot shot high past Pereira to round off a great move and net the only goal of the game.
That gave the game a much needed lift and added an extra spring in the step of the home players up to the half-time whistle.
With Stephen Robinson probably urging his players to get the next goal to kill off the Tynecastle side, ‘Well were on the front foot from the restart.
Despite winning a series of corners and free kicks in the Hearts’ half, the home side made nothing of the opportunities to put pressure on Pereira’s goal.
After 57 minutes Meshino fired narrowly over Gillespie’s bar and sensing the game might be turning their way, Austin MacPhee sent on Uche Ikpeazu to lead the visitor’s attack.
The ‘Well boss probably had the same thoughts and after 64 minutes he brought on Devante Cole at the expense of Scott.
However, before the striker got a touch, Hearts created their best chance. A quick break upfield found Steven MacLean just outside the box but his well driven shot was palmed away by Gillespie at full stretch.
Motherwell appeared to have doubled their lead in the 70th minute.
Long showed tremendous pace and strength to hold off Smith until he worked his way along the goal line. From his cut back, Polworth’s low shot through a packed box appeared to be going over the line, but Allan Campbell made sure – only to be wrongly ruled offside.
Long was injured in the build up and with Hearts looking more likely to find an equaliser, Robinson decided to bolster his defence bringing on Peter Hartley to replace the hardworking ex-Blackpool striker.
What might have been a nervous closing stage for ‘Well fans never materialised, as the Fir Park players intelligently and comfortably managed the final minutes.
Hearts’ frustration was highlighted when, in added on time, Jake Mulraney was shown a straight red card for dissent.