Yesterday there was more torment at Tynecastle. A week in which Hearts came within two minutes of taking Liverpool to extra time in their Europa League tie, only to concede a late goal, took a turn for the worse back on home soil. With the chance to go top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League if they could beat bottom side Dundee, John McGlynn's side conceded an early penalty then fell short for the remaining 90 or so minutes.
The home side dominated possession for the majority of the game but could not find a way past Rab Douglas, who had a stellar game in goal for Dundee. He saved John Sutton's first-half penalty and made a handful of other crucial stops until Hearts, who finished with Marius Zaliukas pushed up front as an auxiliary forward, simply ran out of ideas.
It would be mischief making to wonder if they would have fared better had David Templeton been on the pitch rather than making a scoring debut for Rangers at the other end of the M8, but a lack of creativity was undoubtedly Hearts' undoing as they fell to a first league defeat of the season.
For Dundee, this was a massive weight off their shoulders. It has been a rough reintroduction to top-flight life for the Dens Park side. A winless start – and their midweek defeat by Queen's Park in the Scottish Communities League Cup – had given further ammunition to those predicting Barry Smith's side will struggle, but there were signs they might yet put up something of a fight against the seemingly inevitable.
There was also, at the fifth time of asking, a first Premier League goal of the season for the visiting fans to get excited about. It came early, after around 80 seconds, and from the penalty spot after Zaliukas had carelessly bundled into Colin Nish. Ryan Conroy grabbed the ball and stroked it beyond Jamie MacDonald to give his team the lead. Dundee spent the rest of the game largely on the back foot but their defending was resolute and Hearts could not find a way through.
The victory lifted Dundee off the foot of the table, a fillip going into the international break. Smith's team had Douglas to thank for keeping them in the match, the 40-year-old rolling back the years to deny the home side. He showed agility to tip over a shot from Callum Paterson – the 17-year-old again proving impressive wide on the right for Hearts – and denied Dale Carrick, making his first start, with another save late in the half.
Douglas' most telling intervention, however, arrived after 26 minutes. Lewis Toshney impeded Ryan McGowan as he motored across the Dundee box and Craig Thomson awarded the second penalty of the match. Sutton's kick was firm but Douglas went the right way to repel the Englishman's effort.
Sutton did not reappear for the second half – presumably the events were unconnected – and was replaced by Ryan Stevenson. The forward had left Tynecastle in fairly acrimonious circumstances eight months ago after taking a stand over the regular late payment of players' wages but was afforded a largely welcome reception – there were a few boos – as he trotted on for his first appearance in a Hearts shirt since December.
A goal on his return would have helped win over any dissenters and he twice came close around the hour mark. His first shot was well saved by Douglas after a Dundee defensive error while, from the resultant corner, a goalbound header was hacked off the line by Conroy.
It was largely one-way traffic by then. Hearts had opened the second half the way they had ended the first – on the attack. Arvydas Novikovas drilled in an effort that the goalkeeper blocked, before the Lithuanian crossed for Paterson, whose ambitious volley drifted tamely past the post.
Dundee, though, stood firm as the prospect of a first league win of the season grew ever closer, and frustration grew around Tynecastle. Paterson should have directed a header on target late in the game but that was the closest Hearts would come in their increasingly desperate attempts to equalise. They are in danger of becoming the unwitting masters of the missed opportunity.