Lawrence Shankland took his goal tally for the season to 24 as Hearts advanced to a Scottish Cup quarter-final against Morton with a comprehensive win at Airdrieonians.
Goals from Shankland, Kenneth Vargas and Calem Nieuwenhof inside the first 21 minutes put Steven Naismith’s side firmly in command, but Adam Frizzell’s glancing header gave the hosts hope.
Scotland striker Shankland doubled his tally in the second half with a sumptuous chip to top off an excellent performance and guarantee Hearts a trip to another second-tier side next month.
Airdrie won a couple of corners early on as they looked for a foothold against their top-flight opposition, but they were undone by a stunning Hearts goal.
Shankland started the move, linking up with Nieuwenhof in his own half, before some slick one-touch passing released Alex Cochrane down the left-hand side.
The English defender got his head up to pick out Shankland’s run, and the 28-year-old swept home.
The hosts came within inches of equalising when Mason Hancock’s header crashed off the bar, but just seconds later they found themselves two behind.
Craig Halkett pinged a wonderful pass over the top into Vargas’ stride, and although the Costa Rican forward saw his initial effort saved by Josh Rae, he inadvertently bundled the follow-up over the line to the delight of the large travelling support.
It would go from delight to dreamland shortly after when Nieuwenhof chopped on to his left foot, put a defender on the floor with a clever feint, then fired into the bottom corner.
Airdrie continued to pop the ball around with confidence despite the scoreline, and pulled one back when Frizzell ghosted into the box to head home Hancock’s cross.
The pace of the game dropped after the break, but Hearts missed a big chance to kill off the tie when Alan Forrest blazed high over the bar having been played in by a gorgeous Shankland backheel.
The Hearts captain showed Forrest the way, dinking a delightful finish over Rae after Scott Fraser played him in on goal.
Forrest shot wide as Hearts searched for a fifth, but nothing could dampen spirits in the away end as the Tynecastle men’s wonderful form continued with a 10th win in an 11-game unbeaten run.
Player of the match – Lawrence Shankland
What they said
Hearts head coach Steven Naismith: “We never allowed their transition moments, we got control of the ball and then had an attack most times. You’ll take four goals, but it could have been six.
“It’ll be a tough game [against Morton]. We know what we’re going to, they showed it against Motherwell. Any game in the last eight is going to be tough.
“There’s definitely a belief. We need to get through the next tie and then you’re not far from the end goal.”
Airdrieonians player-manager Rhys McCabe: “It was competitive, you need to remember the level of opposition your playing against.
“I asked the boys to be brave; ultimately they did that. We had chances, on another day we might score more.
“I’m not going to change, I believe in the success this style gives you. It’s a tough lesson but one we enjoyed.”
- 16WatsonSubstituted forBallantyneat 85′minutes
- 21TelferSubstituted forGallagherat 77′minutes
- 24LyallSubstituted forDonnellat 77′minutes
- 11TodorovSubstituted forGallagherat 67′minutes
- 81LembikisaSubstituted forAtkinsonat 74′minutes
- 4HalkettSubstituted forRowlesat 26′minutes
- 6BaningimeSubstituted forTaitat 65′minutes
- 77VargasSubstituted forTagawaat 45′minutes
- 7GrantSubstituted forFraserat 66′minutes
- Steven McLean
Match ends, Airdrieonians 1, Heart of Midlothian 4.