A game billed as significant for Celtic's Fraser Forster proved arguably more so for a player paid to score goals rather than prevent them. Forster duly surpassed Bobby Clark's Scottish league record for time passed without conceding a goal. Yet Tynecastle, somewhat fittingly, was the venue for Leigh Griffiths opening his Celtic scoring account.
From the moment of that Griffiths intervention, 58 minutes into an encounter that was engaging without ever being pretty, Hearts never looked likely to end a Celtic top-flight winning run that has now stretched to 15 games. As the champions head for perhaps their toughest league test yet, at Aberdeen on Tuesday night, they are yet to lose a match in the Scottish Premiership.
How Griffiths enjoyed his strike. The forward has a lifetime affiliation to Hibernian and spent two loan spells on the other side of Edinburgh to this. Exuberant celebrations – for which he was fortunate not to be booked given where they took place – followed after he lashed a shot across Jamie MacDonald and into the Hearts goal. It was a typical illustration of Griffiths's predatory instincts.
There was strange derision in certain quarters as Celtic paid £800,000 to Wolves in January for his services. This is a player with a proven ability to score in Scotland's top league and, at 23, with plenty scope to improve. As a transfer target, he made perfect sense for Celtic.
"That goal will do Leigh the world of good," said the Celtic manager, Neil Lennon. "It was a relief and you can see how much it meant to him. It was a brilliant finish. There's a big expectation when players come here and I hope it's the first of many for him."
Griffiths had collected a long Anthony Stokes pass and confidently beaten the Hearts central defensive duo of Brad McKay and Danny Wilson before seeing off MacDonald.Celtic's fans will privately miss their visits here after Hearts' relegation to the Championship is eventually confirmed. For all the visiting contingent revelled in their hosts' current financial plight, a Celtic visit to Tynecastle should always be one of the marquee fixtures in a Scottish season.
And yet, Hearts would be forgiven pre-match trepidation given Celtic's 7-0 demolition job when they visited on Scottish Cup duty in December. Gary Locke's team have unquestionably improved since then, with the Hearts manager due the kind of credit that is not always forthcoming for maintaining spirit in a team that has been cut adrift at the foot of the league for the entire season.
"We held our own against the best team in the country," said Locke. "I told the players they could be proud of their performance."
Still, Celtic had clearly been the dominant force during the opening half. A last-ditch McKay tackle prevented Griffiths from opening the scoring after 14 minutes, with an Anthony Stokes shot deflected narrowly wide of MacDonald's left-hand post thereafter. Virgil van Dijk and Kris Commons also threatened the Hearts goal with long-range efforts.
When Hearts were afforded a rare opportunity, Callum Paterson failed to play in Paul McCallum and thereby allowed Celtic to clear.
A flat start to the second period was brightened up by a Griffiths goal. He was replaced, 10 minutes later, to a rapturous ovation from the Celtic support.
Hearts launched a response through Dale Carrick, who failed to connect properly with a headed chance. Ryan Stevenson was the next to come close to an equaliser, with Van Dijk clearing the danger.
The Celtic substitute Derk Boerrigter came within inches of converting a Stefan Johansen cross to double Celtic's lead. A subsequent scare arrived for Lennon, as Forster completely missed his attempted punch from a Paterson throw-in; again, no Hearts player could capitalise.
It was left to substitute Teemu Pukki, who also scored his first Celtic goal at this venue, to add gloss to the scoreline. Hearts complained bitterly that Carrick and Jamie Hamill had been fouled in the build-up, with Pukki played in by Amido Balde before beating MacDonald with some degree of composure.