Every one of Heart of Midlothian's fans who yesterday witnessed George Burley's team come through their first major scrutiny has a belief that the Edinburgh club's first title in 45 years is a distinct possibility.
Roman Bednar's 14th-minute header equalled Hearts' finest start in 91 years and the benchmark of eight straight wins out of the blocks, held by Celtic and Rangers. But the most important statistic for the raucous crowd at Tynecastle is the 11-point lead they now have over Rangers. The champions have now lost as many games in this campaign as they did all last season.
Burley's team held their nerve and delivered. "Eight straight wins is a fantastic achievement," said captain Steven Pressley. "It is beyond all our fans' wildest dreams. However, we have 30 games left and simply have to keep the standard we have set."
The only cloud on a gloriously sunny Edinburgh day was a knee injury to Bednar soon after his goal that required the Czech Republic striker - one of Burley's eight summer recruits - to come off after half an hour and could require surgery.
There is no respite for the Rangers manager Alex McLeish. His team now face Internazionale in the Champions' League on Wednesday but he admitted that, domestically, things look grim. "There is no more margin for error, we can't keep dropping points," McLeish said.
Rangers were always chasing a lost cause once Bednar struck. Just seconds earlier, Ronald Waterreus produced a remarkable save to deny Edgar Jankauskas's header. The subsequent corner, however, brought no mercy: Paul Hartley whipped in a glorious delivery and Bednar eluded Marvin Andrews to glance the ball into the roof of the net.
Tynecastle's sell-out crowd rejoiced and Bednar could have doubled his total minutes later when he met a sublime cross from his compatriot, Rudi Skacel, but this time his header narrowly crept over the bar. Skacel then came close with a well-crafted shot.
Rangers shrugged off their anonymity when Barry Ferguson's free-kick picked out Dado Prso and the striker's flick was kept out by a remarkable leap from the Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon.
The second half was much scrappier. Jamie McAllister protected Gordon by producing a fine block on a shot by Francis Jeffers and then Jankauskas should have buried a Hartley cross but headed wide.
Hearts gratefully survived a final minute in which they survived a penalty claim after Jeffers' shot was blocked by Robbie Neilson's hand. The last time Hearts won their first eight games was 1914-15: world war broke out a week later and the team swapped Tynecastle for the trenches. A different destiny awaits Burley's men.
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