THEY had waited a lifetime for this and they were not going to drop the decibel level one bit. The noise that punctured the sky over Celtic Park let out almost four decades of pent-up frustration and signalled that Hearts had ended their long wait for silverware.
The Edinburgh club won the Scottish Cup with a display of the adventure and verve that has marked their amazing season. It may not have yielded the ultimate prize, the League title, which Hearts ran Celtic and Rangers so close for, but those Hearts fans cared little for that.
Scotland's third biggest club had a trophy to themselves after 36 long years of waiting and the emotion spilled over on to the pitch after goals from Colin Cameron and Stephane Adam carried them to their holy grail.
Ally McCoist threatened to spoil the party as best he could with a late goal to reduce the deficit, and maybe he should have had a penalty as the minutes ticked away like hours for every impatient Hearts fan.
That he did not was only justice. For too long Hearts have been smacked in the face by fortune. They deserved their day in the sun, and yesterday was it.
Hearts' manager, Jim Jefferies, said: "Our tactics were spot-on. We had lost 13 goals to Rangers this season so we decided to let them try to break us down. We gave them a problem but after McCoist scored it was the longest 10 minutes of my life."
As the teams strode out into the sunlit arena, it was not hard to see which camp had the greater degree of buoyancy. Hearts songs filled the air, maroon scarves and flags swamped the huge north stand where, only seven days earlier, Celtic fans had partied to mark their success in the League.
Almost immediately, the singing of the Hearts hordes was brought to a sudden halt before they had reason to resume in full voice. The midfielder Steve Fulton, who was captain for the day in place of the injured Gary Locke, went on a run which brought Hearts a second-minute lead. He set off down the left flank, brushing off a tackle from Sergio Porrini, before cutting into the box, where he waschopped down by Ian Ferguson. Cameron slotted the kick past the Rangers goalkeeper, Andy Goram. It was the quickest Cup final goal since, ironically, Derek Johnstone's for Rangers against Hearts in the 1976 final.
Rangers were stung and the midfielder Rino Gattuso tried to respond with a powerful right-foot shot three minutes later, but Hearts goalkeeper Gilles Rousset got his body behind the ball.
While Hearts, with the pace of Neil McCann causing problems down the left, looked menacing, Rangers were struggling to engineer any decent possession. However, in the 34th minute a cohesive move across the edge of the Hearts box saw the ball being shuttled between Brian Laudrup and Gordon Durie, who laid it into the path of Ferguson, but the midfielder was distracted by Fulton's challenge and sent his shot too high.
Just 60 seconds later Stuart McCall touched a short free-kick to Lorenzo Amoruso. His 40-yard effort was bound for the top corner of the net until Rousset clawed the ball away.
Seconds before half-time, Rangers thought they had equalised. Porrini's cross was not confidently cleared by Hearts' central defender Paul Ritchie, who merely knocked the ball to Laudrup. The Dane showed juggled the ball from right foot to left before striking a shot which struck the post.
Rangers replaced the struggling Staale Stensaas at half-time with McCoist, with Porrini filling the full-back spot and Laudrup dropping into midfield in a 4-4-2 formation. This was possibly the last game in Rangers' colours for their record post-war scorer and immediately his appetite was obvious.
Ten minutes after half-time, though, Hearts doubled their lead, leaving Rangers gulping for air. The source of the goal was innocuous, an offside decision deep in Hearts' half. Rousset launch a massive free-kick downfield and the French international found his compatriot, Adam, who took advantage of indecision by Amoruso and pounced on the ball to home in on Goram's goal. The Scotland keeper got a hand to Adam's powerful right-foot shot but he could not keep it out. The former Metz striker, who scored a double in the semi-final success over Falkirk, ran to milk the acclaim of the ecstatic Hearts hordes.
Now Rangers had to abandon years of counter-attacking philosophy and go for broke to try to retrieve the situation, yet it was Hearts who almost found the net again. Fulton's free-kick picked out Thomas Flogel, but the Austrian international's header was held by Goram.
Then Rousset stopped McCoist hauling Rangers back into the game in the 63rd minute. The substitute seemed certain to score with a snap shot from six yards until Rousset thrust out one of those giant arms to parry the ball.
As the clock ran down on Walter Smith's blue empire, Rangers tried one last push to regain a bit of pride for their departing manager. McCoist lit the fuse when he was denied a penalty in the 80th minute, seemingly pushed in the back by Dave McPherson as he tied to reach a knock-down from Richard Gough.
But there was no debate about McCoist's influence a minute later, when he buried a shot in the back of the net to hand Rangers a lifeline. The veteran striker showed great pace to latch on to Gattuso's fine pass and steer his shot past Rousset.
Four minutes from the end, McCoist raced clear again and looked to have earned a penalty after being tripped by David Weir. The referee agreed it was a foul, but to Rangers' fury pointed to a spot just inches outside the box. Amoruso's free-kick was blocked and Hearts were finally free to celebrate.
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