Dunfermline 2 Hearts 1

PARS held on to break Hearts and move to the top of the league after a thrilling win against the title favourites.

Both teams were unbeaten going into this live TV clash under the floodlights but two quick second half goals, from Dom Thomas and skipper Euan Murray, put Athletic in charge.

Stephen Kingsley set up a grandstand finish when he glanced in a header with six minutes left but try as they might the Tynecastle side couldn’t force an equaliser and Dunfermline moved to pole position in the Championship.

Last time they faced each other, Pars lost 1-0 to Hearts in the league cup in August 2018 and they hadn’t met the capital club on league business since April 2012. History was not on their side.

Out of the previous 18 league and cup encounters, they had claimed just two victories and the last time they picked up three points against the Jambos was September 2004 when Barry Nicholson netted in a 1-0 home win.

Both teams had enjoyed an unbeaten start to the season, Dunfermline claiming seven wins and a draw while Hearts had won all eight, albeit they needed extra time to see off Hibs in the Scottish Cup semi.

It was all set to be a cracker under the floodlights and on live TV and Stevie Crawford made five changes from the team that started against the Bully Wee.

Cammy Gill, Matty Bowman, Iain Wilson, Fraser Murray and Kevin O’Hara all dropped to the bench and were replaced by Owain Fon Williams, Lewis Mayo, Steven Whittaker, Kyle Turner and Dom Thomas coming in.

It was fast and furious from the start with Hearts enjoying the majority of possession but Athletic snapping into tackles and breaking at pace on the counter attack.

Turner was first to try and break the deadlock, collecting Mayo’s pass and turning swiftly before trying to curl a left footed effort into the top corner of Craig Gordon’s goal.

Pars breathed a sigh of relief in the 13th minute though as Mihai Popescu met Elliot Frear’s free kick only for his header to come crashing back off the bar.

Dunfermline delved into the box of training ground tricks with Thomas rolling a clever corner to the front post where Whittaker steamed in and flicked the ball goalwards, only to see it brush the side netting.

Robbie Neilson’s men camped in Athletic’s half but struggled to break through a resolute defence, with Whittaker and Kerr McInroy patrolling in front of the back four.

The visitors only really threatened from set pieces and Kingsley swerved a free kick just off target after Steven Naismith claimed for a handball against his former Rangers team-mate Whittaker.

Artful dodging in midfield allowed Pars to continually pick pockets and launch counter attacks, with McInroy bursting clear and slipping the ball left to Thomas, who crashed a low drive into a forest of maroon legs.

A loose ball sat up nicely for Whittaker to unwind his left peg and hammer in a half volley that Popescu threw his body in front of as Crawford’s men made a fist of it.

Dunfermline enjoyed some promising moments but hearts were in mouths when a duff clearance fell to Olly Lee, Fon Williams breathing a little easier when the ball whistled just off target.

Gordon proved he’s still top class in the 37th minute when Thomas swung in a free kick, Murray stole in round the back and powered in a header.

It was offside but the Scotland keeper didn’t know that and flung out an arm to make a superb instinctive save.

Dunfermline rattled the title favourites with a 49th minute goal.

Assist king Thomas took it on himself this time, stepping inside and unleashing a ferocious left foot strike that deflected off Popescu to give the Hearts goalie no chance.

Thomas was in the mood and tied the Jambos defence in knots before forcing another corner that led to Athletic’s second goal in the 54th minute.

He delivered it himself, firing it in with so much pace to the front post that Murray just needed to flick the ball downwards with his head to find the net.

Hearts tried to hit back with Fon Williams making a great double save from Liam Boyce.

The hitman looked odds on to bury his close range header but the Welsh international won the duel and blocked the ball again as the grounded Jambo tried to force the ball home.

Popescu must have known his luck was out when Andy Halliday found him at the back post but the centre back’s header thumped back off the bar for the second time.

There was a big escape for Dunfermline in the 70th minute when Josh Edwards was the last man and his clearance cannoned off Jordan Roberts and put Naismith clear.

Lacking the pace to pull away from Murray, he tried to set up Roberts for a tap-in but Edwards made amends with a great sliding interception.

Mayo should have made the game safe in the 78th minute when Gordon could only push Thomas’ devilish free kick into the air, but with the unguarded goal at his mercy the full back nodded wide.

Hearts pulled a goal back when Kingsley attacked a corner in the 84th and glanced his header past Fon Williams and under the bar.

Turner had a chance to finish it after sub Kevin O’Hara skipped round the onrushing Gordon and picked out the midfielder, but his finish was all wrong and the ball squirmed towards the corner flag.

The ref added five minutes but Pars held on to claim the points.