A run of three successive draws might have slowed Hearts’ progress but, make no mistake, there is a third horse in this race.
With Celtic prone to bouts of defensive havoc and with Rangers looking far more vulnerable this season than they did in the last one (the Premiership champions have gone behind in 11 of their 22 matches so far), many on the Tynecastle terraces are dreaming first league crown since 1960.
But while dropped points against Dundee and St Johnstone can be overcome, the loss of their star centre-back – to a potential title rival no less – would pose a far bigger problem to Hearts boss Robbie Neilson.
John Souttar is out of contract next summer.
According to the Daily Mail (17 November, page 83), Stoke City, Blackburn Rovers, Middlesbrough and a Rangers side now under the stewardship of Giovanni van Bronckhorst are all lining up a bargain move for the Scotland international.
And if Hearts fans were hoping that Neilson would calm the nerves when asked about Souttar’s future in Edinburgh, they would have been disappointed – and more than a little concerned.
“It depends what the fee is to be honest with you,” Neilson told the Record when asked if Hearts will be forced to sell Souttar in January.
“At this moment in time, he’s a Hearts player and we’re still trying to get him to continue to be a Hearts player. We’ll see where it goes.
“The better the team does, and the higher up the league they are, it’s harder to keep all the players. It’s just part of football and something you have to accept.”
According to The Mail, Hearts may be tempted by bids in the region of £500,000.
A fee that even Rangers, who posted substantial losses recently and did not spend a penny on new signings last summer much to Steven Gerrard’s chagrin, should be able to afford.