They were still ramping up the party atmosphere as Stevie Fulton collected the ball, powered through two Rangers defenders and was pulled to the ground
Hearts were into their second Scottish Cup Final in three years; their third Final, including the League Cup, in three years. Each time were ironically pitted against Rangers. Memories of the 1996 5-1 humiliation still fresh in many minds.
However, this was a different team; a different time; almost a different era. There was a sense about Gorgie that their wait was over. It was well documented that Hearts had no trophy to show for the past 36 years of football. Many so nears yet so fars in that time; 1968, 1976, 1986, 1996, not to mention the countless semi finals they’d lost in.
On that day in May, Hearts were up against a very decent Rangers side. The likes Brian Laudrup, Lorenzo Amoruso and Reno Gattuso strutted out of the Parkhead tunnel like they owned the place. However, this was also a Rangers side who had just lost their league crown after nine years to rival Celtic. They were clearly hurting. Would this spur them on or damage them?
The Jambos were in fine voice, singing, dancing and just enjoying themselves in the Parkhead sun as the match go underway. In fact, they were still ramping up the party atmosphere as Hearts’ midfielder Stevie Fulton collected the ball on the left-hand side, powered through two Rangers defenders and was pulled to the ground. The referee had no hesitation as he pointed to the spot. A shiver ran through the spine of every Jambo inside the stadium, followed by absolute delirium as Colin Cameron tucked the resultant penalty into the top corner. Almost unbelievably, just two minutes in and Hearts had opened the door just a little to give themselves a chance.
Whilst a flicker of light had been ignited, there was a long way to go yet. Too long. However, the Jambos were more than content with living in the moment and at that moment they were a goal up and on their way to Cup Glory.
The rest of the first half flew by, with just a few hairy moments. A fine strike from Amoruso was clawed away superbly by Gilles Rousset and a nervy moment saw a Laudrup effort come back off the post.
Into the second half and a long ball over the top was chased down by Frenchman Stephane Adam. He caught Amoruso on his blind side as he nipped in ahead of the big Italian defender. From an acute angle Adam clipped the ball into the far corner beyond the sprawling Andy Goram. Further pandemonium ensued in the maroon end of the stadium.
If Hearts had a glimmer of hope before, surely a 2-0 lead with under 40 minutes to play was enough to send even the most pessimistic of Hearts fans into dreamland.
Soon enough, though, Rangers brought on their not-so-secret weapon. Ally McCoist, in his final match with the Ibrox club, had been a tormentor of Hearts defenses for years. It was not a sight to savour. Sure enough, with just nine minutes left on the clock, McCoist turned and shot past Rousset to give the Glasgow side a way back into the game.
It was a sight many Hearts fans had experienced before. McCoist scoring and everyone knew what was coming. There may have only been nine minutes left, but it still was far too long in these circumstances.
With the Jambo end feeling slightly deflated and becoming more and more nerve-ridden, The Gers pushed on for what was now a likely equaliser. Then, it happened. McCoist was put through the middle. Before he could get his shot away, he was taken down. The referee immediately pointed to the spot. Hearts couldn’t believe it. They had blown it again. How many more of these heartache moments could the fans possibly endure? However, almost as quickly as the referee appeared to point to the spot, he pulled them back for a free-kick on the edge of the box. Surely Hearts’ hearts had been thrown back and forth in those past few seconds. It was the last minute of the game. Rangers had appeared to have been awarded a penalty only to have it taken away. Hearts were not out of the woods yet, though. They still had a dangerous free-kick to defend. Luckily for them, the subsequent kick was tame and they could breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Minutes later the full-time whistle sounded. Ecstatic Hearts fans jumped up and danced around in pure ecstasy. You could feel the huge wave of relief flow round Parkhead as Hearts could finally get the monkey off their backs and bring a trophy back to Tynecastle.