Rangers are in an erratic state. The mood of the support tends to veer between alarm and sweeping sentiment. The backdrop to this match was a confusion of feelings: some players will leave tomorrow, victims of the need to cut costs while the club is in administration. Yet the supporters retain a strong sense that their willpower alone is a significant factor.
They thronged into Ibrox, filling the stadium for the second time since administrators took control three weeks ago. The attempt was to generate, amid the pageantry of flags and banners, a belief that adversity will be overcome. Supporters are easily demoralised in a match, but the awareness that their club is on the brink has galvanised an old survival spirit.
There is, too, a bewilderment. Before kick-off David Whitehouse, one of the Duff & Phelps administrators, clarified some issues. The most pressing is the need to cut £1m from the monthly outgoings and the squad have offered a wage deferral of between 50 and 75 per cent to prevent redundancies.
However, the administrators will only offer wage cuts, the level of which will affect how many players are released, with between six and 11 at risk. Some are prepared to play for nothing for the rest of the season.
"Deferring problems isn't dealing with our problems," said Whitehouse. "We must make sure we have a blend of players performing well but also retain a business capable of attracting an investor."
Several potential new owners have indicated their interest in the club, and the administrators have set a deadline of 16 March for intentions to be registered. They do not, though, expect the club to exit administration before 31 March, the deadline for being granted a Uefa club license, and so Rangers are unlikely to be able to play in Europe next season. The administrators believe there is a "high" chance the club will have exited administration before the start of next season.
In the circumstances, matches become a precious distraction and manager Ally McCoist said: "I can't believe we lost. The players gave everything."
The game was decided by Jamie Hamill when he converted the rebound after Allan McGregor saved his penalty. Hearts midfielder Ian Black had already cancelled out Steven Davis's first-half goal. Going behind only stirred the home fans more. It was, to them, a bit of respite.
Rangers (4-4-2): McGregor; Perry, Goian, Bocanegra, Wallace; Aluko (Celik, 65), Davis, McCabe, Kerkar; McCulloch, Little.
Hearts (4-2-3-1): MacDonald; Hamill, Webster, Zaliukas, Grainger; Barr (Beattie, 46), Black (Taouil, 74); Robinson, Mrowiec, Driver; Glen (McGowan, 84).
Referee Crawford Allan.
Man of the match Hamill (Hearts).
Match rating 4/10.