Match ends, Kilmarnock 0, Heart of Midlothian 1.
Kilmarnock 0-1 Heart of Midlothian
Hearts gave interim boss Jon Daly his first win as an early goal from Isma Goncalves proved enough at Kilmarnock, who suffered a second home defeat.
The Portuguese striker broke clear to smash home a low shot and was denied a second by keeper Jamie MacDonald.
Killie's Rory McKenzie was denied by a double save from Jack Hamilton, while Kyle Lafferty missed at the other end.
Both sides were reduced to 10 men when Killie's Kirk Broadfoot and Goncalves were sent off, but Hearts held out.
This was hard-fought stuff but much of it was hard to watch, an incessant riot of errors with precious little accuracy or coherence. You could blame the artificial pitch - as many have in the past - but that would not explain it fully. It was a grim battle between two teams that have a long way to go before they find their feet.
For the pair of them - after disappointing, or in Hearts' case, catastrophic - beginnings to the season, it was all about the bottom line. A win, no matter how it came, was all that mattered it and it was Hearts who landed the blow early in the game to win a league game at Rugby Park for the first time since April 2013.
Rafal Grzelak played the ball through a gap at the heart of Killie's defence to Goncalves, who beat MacDonald with a smart finish low to the goalkeeper's right. Only six minutes had been played.
If that goal gave us hope that an entertaining game was about to unfold, it was misleading. Hearts, with Goncalves and Kyle Lafferty combining, could, and probably should, have had a second when Goncalves was foiled by MacDonald, who had to come out of his box to thwart the striker. The Portuguese really ought to have put it away.
The poverty of the football continued but at least the incident rate increased.
Hearts had Hamilton to thank for snuffing out a rare Killie attack, sparked by Dom Thomas. The goalkeeper blocked two Killie efforts in a matter of seconds, the latter from McKenzie, a weak attempt from close range that was in keeping with much of what went on during the day.
Soon after, Hearts broke free and, again, there was a touch of slapstick about the way it all petered out. Don Cowie put in an inviting cross whereupon Lafferty took a fresh-air swipe at the ball - and missed.
Then, the red cards for an outbreak of needless nonsense. Kirk Broadfoot looked to have slammed Goncalves to the floor, who then retaliated. Referee Stephen Finnie consulted with assistant Calum Spence and sent off the pair of them.
Killie never looked like finding enough to force an equaliser - they roared for a penalty late on after McKenzie went down but didn't get it - and Hearts, for their part, rarely looked capable of giving themselves the comfort of a second goal. Cowie fired over from close range with four minutes left. That was the best of it.
Jamie Walker, who on his best form, might have elevated this game above the mundane, started on the bench - and that is where he finished it, too. Clearly he has some way to go yet to make amends to the Hearts interim management.
For Jon Daly and Austin MacPhee, this was a precious win in turbulent times. For Lee McCulloch, another defeat and a few more worries.
Kilmarnock boss Lee McCulloch: "I thought we were the better team. It was a sloppy goal to lose after five minutes but that was a bit of a wake-up call for us and after that I thought we were a lot better for the rest of the match.
"We were a little bit unlucky with Rory McKenzie's chance and another couple of half-chances to put crosses in, but I thought we sort of dominated and it is a little bit hard to take. But we need to dust ourselves down and go again.
"We spoke all week about starting the game well and then after five minutes it is backs to the wall. But Hearts are a definite top-four side in this league and to play the way we did for 85 minutes against them is where the positives come from, albeit we didn't get anything from the game.
"There might be a chance to get one more player in, maybe two, but we will wait and see."
Interim Hearts boss Jon Daly: "It's a massive win. We haven't won here since April 2013 so it shows how difficult a place it is to come. The players showed a lot of the characteristics that people have questioned over the last while - determination, the will to fight and hard work. I thought we saw that in abundance today.
"The effort off the ball was different class. We know we can do better on the ball but when the group is low on confidence, you can understand why. We weren't at our best there but I was delighted for big Isma with the goal, 'Laff' [Kyle Lafferty] up top was was excellent, the boys in the middle were different class and while Jack Hamilton didn't have a lot to do, I thought his handling was different class.
"His double save was outstanding. He is young goalkeeper who has had a lot of criticism but we have a lot of high hopes for him."
- 20WilsonSubstituted forSamizadehat 87'minutes
- 4GreerBooked at 90mins
- 5BroadfootBooked at 68mins
- 12TaylorSubstituted forO'Donnellat 72'minutes
- 29C BurkeSubstituted forJonesat 45'minutes
- 7McKenzieBooked at 84mins
- 22ErwinBooked at 57mins
- 30BrandonSubstituted forNowakat 81'minutes
- 15CowieSubstituted forMartinat 90+1'minutes
- 10Sutchuin-DjoumBooked at 55mins
- 16RandallBooked at 77mins
- 77Esmael GonçalvesBooked at 69mins
- 9LaffertySubstituted forStocktonat 85'minutes
- Stephen Finnie
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Kilmarnock 0, Heart of Midlothian 1.
Gordon Greer (Kilmarnock) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Gordon Greer (Kilmarnock).
Cole Stockton (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Gordon Greer (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Cole Stockton (Heart of Midlothian).
Substitution, Heart of Midlothian. Malaury Martin replaces Don Cowie.
Foul by Kris Boyd (Kilmarnock).
John Souttar (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Rory McKenzie (Kilmarnock).
Krystian Nowak (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Stephen O'Donnell (Kilmarnock).
Arnaud Sutchuin-Djoum (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Kilmarnock. Alex Samizadeh replaces Iain Wilson.
Attempt missed. Jordan Jones (Kilmarnock) right footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the right.
Attempt missed. Don Cowie (Heart of Midlothian) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high following a set piece situation.
Foul by Gordon Greer (Kilmarnock).
Cole Stockton (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Heart of Midlothian. Cole Stockton replaces Kyle Lafferty.
Rory McKenzie (Kilmarnock) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Kris Boyd (Kilmarnock).
Christophe Berra (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Kilmarnock. Conceded by Michael Smith.
Attempt saved. Don Cowie (Heart of Midlothian) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.
Substitution, Heart of Midlothian. Krystian Nowak replaces Jamie Brandon because of an injury.
Foul by Dom Thomas (Kilmarnock).
Rafal Grzelak (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Dom Thomas (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Rafal Grzelak (Heart of Midlothian).
Attempt saved. Rafal Grzelak (Heart of Midlothian) left footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is saved in the bottom left corner.
Connor Randall (Heart of Midlothian) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Rory McKenzie (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Connor Randall (Heart of Midlothian).
Foul by Lee Erwin (Kilmarnock).
Christophe Berra (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt blocked. Rafal Grzelak (Heart of Midlothian) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Stephen O'Donnell (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Kyle Lafferty (Heart of Midlothian).
Substitution, Kilmarnock. Stephen O'Donnell replaces Greg Taylor.