Quite how Gary Locke's side escaped from Firhill with a draw last night remains a modern-day mystery.
Outwith a brief period midway through the second half that brought a degree of respite, they were pummelled from start to finish by a vigorous, attack-minded Partick Thistle side that created enough chances to win three games and seemed destined to end the evening in the quite fantastical position of SPFL Premiership leaders. An 85th-minute penalty kick from defender Aaron Muirhead looked like it had brought an evening of frustration for the home support to an end and banished the anger generated by missed chances, fine work from visiting goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald and two discounted penalty claims.
They didn't bank on Jamie Walker, perhaps the brightest of the 16 academy prospects that made up the Tynecastle club's 18-man squad, turning from the villain of the piece into the most unlikely hero of the hour. He had barged substitute John Baird in the area to concede the spot-kick that gave Thistle the lead. With just two minutes remaining, the 20-year-old was foolishly afforded the freedom to advance and released a 20-yard effort that beat Scott Fox to his left and bulged the net for the equaliser.
"I think we deserved to win," said Alan Archibald, the Thistle manager. "It felt like a defeat in the end. For some reason, you seem to step that wee yard back when you go ahead. If you can't keep the ball for those two minutes, you kick it into the stand, but we couldn't do it."
It is hard to grudge poor Hearts anything they might deem worthy of clinging on to in their desperate predicament, but they simply did not deserve a share of the spoils here. By the same token, the only possible consolation for Archibald, keen to play down rather insulting talk of this affair being a 'six-pointer', is that his side have already shown more than enough to suggest they will not have any direct involvement whatsoever in Hearts' desperate attempts to stay in the top-flight at the same time as they endeavour to stay alive.
How far they can go remains to be seen, but they have a fit, hungry and united panel of players who will certainly add a number of scalps over the next nine months to hang beside that of Ross County. Thistle go for the throat while consistently aiming to pass the ball and established Premiership sides such as Hibernian, so negative and unambitious, might like to take a leaf out of their book. It is simply to be hoped the Firhill side can keep this up when the injuries, suspensions and the old ennui come calling somewhere down the line because they have been a fine addition to the upper echelons of the game thus far.
Right from the start in this one, they seized the initiative and stomped all over their inexperienced opponents. Doolan had been ruled offside before putting the ball in the net after Craigen and Conrad Balatoni had both had a swipe at it and Balatoni should have scored when heading a Craigen cross over from a great position inside the area on 20 minutes.
Doolan only just failed to connect with an O'Donnell delivery yards out as Thistle poured forward and there were two understandable squeals for penalties coldly ignored by referee Bobby Madden 10 minutes from the interval. O'Donnell felt Danny Wilson had handled his cross from the right in the area. Moments later, Lawless was the one venting his spleen after going down on the edge of the box under a tackle from McHattie.
The pressure was unrelenting in the second period with Doolan forcing a point-blank save from MacDonald after some ball-juggling on the far touchline. It took a good 64 minutes before the sizeable away support, earning a pound for their club's coffers from every ticket sold thanks to a noble gesture from Thistle, had something to cheer. Brad McKay had a goalbound hook-shot headed behind by Muirhead and, from the corner, Wilson produced a decent header that bounced off the top of the bar with goalkeeper Scott Fox stretching.
It did not take long for normal service to be resumed, though. MacDonald had to produce excellent stops from Craigen and Baird before his team's fragile resistance was broken five minutes from time after Walker had sent Baird tumbling in the box. Muirhead sent his shot from the 12-yard mark straight down the middle and it proved enough to finally get the better of MacDonald.
No-one saw what was coming next. If Thistle switched off, believing their night's work was over, they have learned a very important lesson. For all this, it is still going to be a long season for Hearts and their youthful squad. Digging out a point from this onslaught will have been an education in itself, for the team and its brightest prospect.
"Fair play to Jamie," said Locke. "He switched off at the corner, got caught on the wrong side and gave away the penalty. He came up with a wonderful strike, but that 30 seconds of switching off cost us. It was a goal deserving of an equaliser. It's a great learning curve for them."