Hearts survived to claim a place in the final of the Scottish League Cup with a penalty shoot-out win over Inverness CT.
The Tynecastle men were forced to come from behind, as Michael Ngoo marked his debut with a goal to cancel out Andrew Shinnie’s opener, with Hearts also seeing midfielder Scott Robinson sent off.
The Highland side arrived in the capital with the same starting line-up that trounced Aberdeen last Saturday, while Hearts boss John McGlynn made six changes, with on-loan Liverpool striker Ngoo starting, along with Fraser Mullen, Marius Zaliukas, Callum Tapping, Robinson and Jamie Walker, with Darren Barr, Dylan McGowan, Mehdi Taouil, Kevin McHattie, Callum Paterson and John Sutton dropping out.
The Edinburgh side took the lead, as Danny Wilson linked up with Jason Holt on the left-hand side of the area, but the on-loan Liverpool defender’s effort towards goal was diverted away for a corner by Antonio Reguero.
Inverness could have taken a shock lead as Richie Foran broke the offside trap and raced onto a long ball from Andrew Shinnie, but the Caley Thistle skipper could not find the finish as MacDonald got down well to save.
The combination of on-loan Liverpool players almost paid off for Hearts as Wilson came forward from his left-back position and worked the ball into the box for Ngoo, but the young striker could only find the side netting.
Terry Butcher’s side should have taken the lead when McKay got his head to a Graeme Shinnie free kick from the left wing, but the Northern Irish international could only direct his effort wide of MacDonald’s goal.
The game then raged down to the other end as Wilson once again exploited the left-hand side, finding Holt inside the box, but the midfielder’s effort was deflected for a corner as the half-finished goalless.
Inverness started the second half in superb style as Andrew Driver was robbed on the edge of his own area and that allowed Andrew Shinnie to drive in and place the ball beyond MacDonald, into the bottom corner.
The Tynecastle side got level, as Andy Webster knocked down a Mullen free kick into the path of Ngoo and he rifled it beyond the Spanish stopper, to the delight of the Hearts fans.
Hearts were then reduced to 10 men when Robinson received a straight red card for what appeared to be a two-footed lunge at Inverness midfielder Owain Tudur-Jones.
As the game went into extra-time it was Hearts who threatened first as substitute Arvydas Novikovas raced in on goal, but the Lithuanian’s strike went just wide.
Inverness should have sealed their place in the final when Andrew Shinnie and McKay broke the offside trap and John McGlynn’s side could have stolen it at the start of the second period as Reguero rashly came out for a corner, allowing Webster a header at goal, which was cleared off the line.
The game was eventually decided by penalties, with substitute Phillip Roberts missing the deciding penalty that saw Hearts claim a League Cup final berth.