Match ends, Heart of Midlothian 3, Dundee United 2.
Hearts moved to within seven points of Aberdeen and Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership by beating crisis-ridden Dundee United at Tynecastle.
United opened the scoring with a Billy Mckay penalty inside the first minute, but Hearts' response was rapid.
Gavin Reilly and Prince Buaben put them ahead inside the half hour, then Osman Sow scored with another penalty.
Scott Fraser's speculative free-kick found Hearts' net, but United's hopes ended when Mark Durnan was sent-off.
All those goals - and the red card - had come in a frenetic first half.
Hearts had multiple chances to score more goals after the break but failed to execute.
United remain mired in calamity. They are still 10 points adrift at the bottom despite having the start of their dreams. Fraser was needlessly shoved over in the box by Juwon Oshaniwa and Mckay scored from the penalty spot.
The lead did not last long. Just 16 minutes later, Billy King's corner was flicked on by Alim Ozturk, the ball carrying to the back post, where Gavin Reilly put it away with ease.
Buaben made it two when his strike from distance found the net via the weak hands of United's anxiety-ridden goalkeeper, Michal Szromnik.
The Pole went on to make some good saves, but he carries little authority.
His nerves were shredded again when he had to face a penalty after Callum Morris bundled Reilly over. Sow made it 3-1 with aplomb.
Hearts had been no great shakes in establishing their lead, but they were way too good for a hapless United, who continue to carry a death-wish in defence.
From out of the blue, though, they made it 3-2. It was a bizarre thing, a Fraser free-kick from wide on the right that carried all the way past goalkeeper Neil Alexander.
United had a lifeline and then immediately pulled the plug out on their chances when Durnan hauled down Reilly as he bore down on goal. Off he went.
To add to United's mountain of pain, Morris was stretchered off in the next act.
Hearts took ownership of the game from that point on. They created chance after chance but lacked the composure to execute any of them.
Buaben had a shot saved by Sromnik, Reilly missed a sitter, Gavin Gunning hoofed one off the line soon after and then Sean Dillon did the same.
Hearts can be a whole lot more clinical than this, but the bottom line was sweet enough for them. A win at last at the sixth attempt.
For United, it was drearily familiar stuff. A lot of effort but zero points.
They are now past the halfway stage of the season and their nightmare doesn't look like ending any time soon.
- 11NicholsonSubstituted forZanattaat 83'minutes
- 6GomisBooked at 34minsSubstituted forSutchuin-Djoumat 45'minutes
- 10SowSubstituted forSwansonat 81'minutes
- 14Pallardo Gonzalez
- 17DurnanBooked at 45mins
- 5MorrisSubstituted forDillonat 45+3'minutes
- 55DemelSubstituted forSouttarat 79'minutes
- 7MckaySubstituted forSpittalat 45'minutes
- Bobby Madden
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Heart of Midlothian 3, Dundee United 2.
Danny Swanson (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by John Souttar (Dundee United).
Foul by Dario Zanatta (Heart of Midlothian).
Blair Spittal (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Alim Ozturk (Heart of Midlothian).
Chris Erskine (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Dario Zanatta (Heart of Midlothian) left footed shot from a difficult angle on the left is close, but misses to the left.
Substitution, Heart of Midlothian. Dario Zanatta replaces Sam Nicholson.
Substitution, Heart of Midlothian. Danny Swanson replaces Osman Sow.
Billy King (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Paul Dixon (Dundee United).
Substitution, Dundee United. John Souttar replaces Guy Demel.
Corner, Heart of Midlothian. Conceded by Sean Dillon.
Attempt saved. John Rankin (Dundee United) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner.
Attempt missed. Gavin Reilly (Heart of Midlothian) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left.
Attempt missed. Sam Nicholson (Heart of Midlothian) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left.
Attempt saved. Billy King (Heart of Midlothian) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top right corner.
Foul by Igor Rossi (Heart of Midlothian).