The club might have survived a turbulent few days early last month during which players went without their full wages, but the likelihood of the Fifers meeting the demands of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League table is beginning to look forlorn.
Whichever figures you chose, the campaign's ledger remains bleak; they have the division's most porous defence, the most impotent attack alongside St Mirren, have yet to win at home this season and have done so just twice anywhere in their previous 22 matches and not at all in their last 11. Most damning, though, is the statistic that they are now seven points in arrears of Hibernian – a gap that effectively becomes eight given the disparity in goal difference – with just 15 points to play for.
Given that Dunfermline were within three points of the Easter Road club just eight days ago, it has been a bruising initiation for Jim Jefferies. Recruited in a desperate bid to avoid relegation, the former Hearts manager has presided over two defeats and a draw during which familiar flaws have cost the East End Park side. Indeed, of the six goals conceded in those games, five could be attributed to a failure to defend crosses.
The two they shipped on Saturday were among those, Dunfermline getting into a dreadful funk twice in the space of four second-half minutes as they attempted to deal with deliveries. "Good sides punish you in this division, and that is something we've struggled with," said maligned goalkeeper Chris Smith, who wasn't at fault on this occasion. "We restricted them to very few chances but when they did get an opportunity they took it."
Indeed, it would not be unrepresentative to suggest Dunfermline were by far the better side in the opening half, dominating possession and penning Hearts back in their own half for much of the 45 minutes. Not for the first time, though, the Fifers were unable to frank such superiority with a goal and were punished as the visitors emerged with vim and vigour, scoring twice then dictating the tempo for the remainder of the afternoon.
Hearts' late concession was unfortunate but could not dilute the feeling that the season is culminating in a surge of positivity. A quietly impressive run of five wins in seven matches has not only rendered obsolete any lingering fears over their place in the upper half but also given rise to cautious murmurs about continental competition next season. The failure of Motherwell, Dundee United and St Johnstone to win at the weekend has allowed Paulo Sergio's side to creep within two points of fourth place and seven points of third and a potential Champions League spot, with matches to come against each of the sides above them.
This week, though, their attention will be firmly fixed on Sunday's William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final engagement with Celtic. If they are to emerge from that tie with a final to look forward to, Hearts will need to perform with greater accomplishment than they did on Saturday but the return of both Craig Beattie and Andy Webster will burnish a resolute team that has now conceded just once in five matches and discovered the precious ability to take one of the few chances that come their way.
It is a winning equation and one that Dunfermline simply cannot count upon.