Frazer Wright headed Kilmarnock into the lead in the second minute of first-half stoppage time before goals from Conor Sammon and Alexei Eremenko, after 80 and 82 minutes helped the visitors to their third SPL victory of the season.
Hearts, in particular former Killie manager Jim Jefferies and striker Kevin Kyle, were left frustrated as the hosts struggled to apply the finishing touch and saw their two-game winning run ended.
The day began once more with more negative headlines for Scottish officials with Steven Craven, the assistant referee who resigned following the controversial October 17 clash between Dundee United and Celtic, speaking to a Sunday newspaper.
Dougie McDonald, the referee at the centre of the Tannadice row, was today’s fourth official two days after being given a warning by the Scottish Football Association’s refereeing committee.
But McDonald avoided further controversy today as Killie confounded the doubters with a strong display away from home.
Killie had a glorious opportunity when Eremenko’s lofted pass was hit first time by Liam Kelly.
Kelly’s effort was wide, but he may have done better had he taken a touch first to control the ball.
After seven minutes, Hearts goalkeeper Marian Kello was at full stretch to deny Mehdi Taouil, who had cut inside from the left and hit a fierce right-foot shot.
Manuel Pascali was then booked for a rash challenge on Suso Santana as Hearts launched a counter attack from the resulting corner.
Kyle, Rudi Skacel and Ruben Palazuelos combined soon after, with the latter firing wide from the left edge of the area.
Referee Stevie O’Reilly booked Eremenko for diving on the edge of the penalty area before Killie broke the deadlock in first-half stoppage time.
Jamie Hamill’s free-kick was met by an unmarked Wright, who headed into the net above Kello.
Jefferies made two changes at the interval with Stephen Elliott coming on for Calum Elliot and Craig Thomson replacing Darren Barr.
Skacel shot straight at Killie goalkeeper Cameron Bell from 20 yards before the hosts’ penalty appeals for handball were turned down after Santana’s cross struck Ben Gordon.
Adrian Mrowiec’s shot from 25 yards had Bell scrambling to re-gather after making the initial save but Hearts continued to lack fluency in the final third.
Elliott’s snap-shot rippled the top of the net after going over the bar, Santana shot straight at Bell before Jefferies used his third substitute with 28 minutes remaining.
David Templeton, a replacement for Mrowiec, had an immediate impact, but Santana could only fire his team-mate’s cross from the left over.
Thomson’s cross then was too high for Elliott and Kyle challenged Bell, but could not connect with the ball.
There was no foul, but Bell – continually now taking his time over every goal kick – required treatment and the referee was forced to call for a drop ball.
Kyle was booked soon after a foul on the edge of the Killie area as Hearts were becoming increasingly frustrated, with Santana booked for dissent.
Templeton fired wide after cutting in off the left wing and Kello turned an Eremenko effort around the post for a corner.
Mahamadou Sissoko, who marshalled Kyle well all afternoon, headed an Eremenko corner over before Killie netted a second after 80 minutes.
A long ball from Hamill down the right allowed Sammon to sneak around the Hearts defence and beat Kello with a well-placed shot.
Eremenko curled a third into the top corner two minutes later as Hearts’ defence failed to deal with a long ball forward.
Elliott had an effort saved by Bell but the Killie goalkeeper was not to be beaten as the visitors bounced back from their woeful run with a convincing victory.