A football club on its knees, stripped bare by the financial recklessness of its previous owners, its playing squad reduced to a small group of callow but willing young players and backed by a devoted fanbase, somehow defeats all the odds to claw back a 15-point deficit to stay in the top division.
In an era of Scottish football where sensational stories have not been in short supply, this one would surely have topped the lot. And, for a while, it looked like becoming a reality. Five games into the season and Hearts had lost only once - a narrow defeat by St Johnstone on the opening day - beaten Hibernian in the derby, drawn away at Partick Thistle, handed a bloody nose to Aberdeen and despatched Raith Rovers in a penalty shoot-out in the League Cup. With St Mirren and Kilmarnock toiling, it seemed as if the great escape was most definitely on. Then reality bit hard.
There was always going to be only so much that could be expected from young players, only so much influence the crowd could wield, only so many times exuberance and enthusiasm could carry Hearts over the line. Some poor decisions from match officials did not help either but, regardless, the early-season optimism quickly wore off.
Hearts are now without a league win since August 24 and, having lost this month to both St Mirren and Kilmarnock, look almost certain to fill the automatic relegation spot come the end of the season and drop into the second tier of Scottish football for the first time since 1983.
Billy Brown is not surprised. Hearts' assistant manager has been around the block enough times to know the team's impressive start to the season was probably not sustainable. He surveys Hearts' position - 15 points from the play-off spot, as they were when the season began - and admits he is neither surprised nor disappointed at how things have turned out. The only promise he will make is that this young group of players will continue to scrap and battle to preserve their top flight status until their fate is sealed one way or the other.
"I know everyone is saying we're relegated already and the performances haven't been great in the last two or three weeks, but that's football," said Brown. "If anybody didn't think that was going to happen with the team we started with then they don't know the game or didn't look at what was here. I knew when it was lovely and sunny in August and the enthusiasm at Tynecastle was high that performances would be good but there was always going to be a lull. But we will come back again.
"We were always going to dip. It's not down to lack of effort or will. It is down to lack of experience, strength and not being able to freshen things up here and there. But the players haven't lost faith. We are on a bad run, but in that period we've had one or two things going against us. We scored a winner against Dundee United and didn't get it. We had a player [Jamie Hamill] sent off at Inverness when the ball's hit his head. We haven't had our share of breaks.
"People don't realise the things that go on here [behind the scenes]," he added. "In the week before we played Partick Thistle, we had 11 players away on international duty. We prepared for a Friday night game with just five players. We haven't had a lot going for us, but I'm sure that will change."
This evening might offer the perfect chance to bring about that upturn in fortune. A League Cup quarter-final against great rivals Hibs at Easter Road might not seem the easiest way to kickstart a flailing season, but Brown hopes his young players will thrive in the occasion.
"Sometimes when you get an experienced group of players and things go bad for them then they're a bit down, but these boys seem to be on an up. They say you need fire in your belly and ice in your veins for these games but they're games you've got to show a lot of passion for. Hearts have sold their allocation so there will be no shortage of support from the terraces. I just hope we can do them justice."