IN retrospect, the defining moment of the 2014-15 championship title race arrived when the main participants were still in their starting blocks.

No sooner had Nicky Law's volley given Rangers a last-minute equaliser on the opening day of the league season against Hearts at Ibrox than play broke to the other side of the pitch, Sam Nicholson played in Osman Sow and the big Swede dragged a low left-foot shot beyond the reach of Cammy Bell into the bottom corner.

Having suddenly burst to life, the majority of the 43,683 crowd were abruptly silenced again, while the pocket of visiting fans momentarily abandoned their senses in the corner. Essentially, this dynamic captured the championship in microcosm: try as they might, Rangers have rarely looked like title winners since. Hearts have barely looked anything but.

As he prepares to return to Govan this afternoon with the title all wrapped up, Sow recalled his moment of glory and looked forward to creating more. In particular, he won't rest until Hearts have broken the 100-goal mark, and have a 30-point lead at the top of the division. At the moment those two tallies stand at 86 and 26 respectively.

"It was the biggest crowd I had ever played in front of," said the 24-year-old Swede. "And I was a little bit tired when I scored the goal. But it was a good feeling. You always play to win and we played until the last minute. Maybe it was an important goal but there were many points needed and many important goals scored throughout the season.

"It was a really nice goal to score but it is history and now I am looking forward to this game. We still have a lot to prove against Rangers and a lot more to play for - we still want to score more goals and get over the 100 line. You want to look back at the season and say 'remember the time we won the league by 30 points'."

Were it not for the torn thigh muscle which kept him out from late October to late January, Sow might have even more headline moments to reflect on from his first season in Scottish football. Even still, he is Hearts' top scorer with 12 goals in all competitions, a tally derived from just 20 appearances. Despite a missed penalty in a League Cup tie at Parkhead, it is the kind of ratio which suggests he will remain a huge asset when the Tynecastle side return to the Scottish top flight this summer for the second year of his deal.

"For me, it is hard to say how Hearts will do next season," said Sow. "I haven't played against most of the teams so I won't say this or that. We are just trying to work as hard as we can and see where it goes. Maybe it is good that I am an unknown quantity to other teams. Celtic were good [in the League Cup that night] but if I had scored the penalty it might have been a different game. I missed and that is life. But we get to play them a few more times next season. The gap is not vast - they are training every day and we are training every day."

The limelight has come late to this player of Senegalese extraction. After low-key spells at Swedish sides FOC Farsta and Vasby United, he was even prepared to risk a season in the Moldovan top flight in Chisinau to make his way in the game. A return to Sweden with Syrianska paved the way for a move to Crystal Palace under Ian Holloway, although a knee ligament injury and a bewildering array of managers put paid to his chances there. Even joining a Hearts side in the division below involved a leap of faith.

"It was a big thinker for me because I could have stayed in the top division in Sweden," said Sow. "But when you get a good feeling in your stomach you go with it. It has gone beyond expectations. This is my first title and it is good. It gives you more hunger and more motivation to go on and do better things."

Robbie Neilson admits the Sow strike was an early turning point in the season.

"It wasn't so much points-wise but just for the lift it gave us and the belief that we could go to Ibrox in the first game of the season and get the win," the Hearts boss said. "Then we got the result against Hibs the following week. It gave us momentum and you get a buy-in from the players right away when you get results like that."

Most players who wash up in Scottish football are damaged goods in one way or another and in Sow's case the doubts were about his knee.

"Like all the players we bring in there's always something in the background that is causing them problems and for Osman it was his knee," said Neilson. "He had been a whole year without any first-team game and that was the reason we were able to get him. The players we bring have either played 35 games all season at not a great level or someone who has been at a high level but had an issue. That's the gamble you take.

"I think he can [play in the SPFL Premiership] but he has still to prove it, like they all have to. They all have to prove that they are good enough for the top level. But he has been fantastic. He is quite a calm guy, laid back but great to have about the club. He is very humble and I think he is happy to be here."

Rangers will afford Hearts a guard of honour before kick-off, and Neilson recognises that they are a different side under Stuart McCall and Kenny Black, who sat alongside Neilson at Falkirk the other week.

Also a scorer at Ibrox that day in August, against his former team, was Danny Wilson, the Hearts skipper who has been linked with a move to Celtic. Like Sow, Wilson is entering the final year of his contract, but Neilson said discussions were under way in an attempt to keep him longer term.

"The ball is in Danny's court," said Neilson. "He still has a year left and we will see what he thinks. He has been a big part of things and will continue to be a big part of things. Then after that it's up to Danny. Celtic get linked with just about every player who has a good part of the season so you just don't know. But Danny is a strong character and I don't think it will affect him at all."