HEARTS have been crowned Championship champions and will return to the Premiership at the first time of asking with three games to spare.
Robbie Neilson watched his side hammer Alloa 6-0 on Friday night to move within two points of being confirmed title winners.
The Tynecastle club required Raith Rovers and Dundee, their nearest challengers, to drop points. Both duly obliged.
The Stark’s Park outfit surrendered a two-goal lead at home to Arbroath to draw 2-2, while the Tayside men were held to a 1-1 stalemate by Morton at Dens Park.
It is the second time Hearts have won the second tier since 2015 and the third time Neilson has steered a side to promotion to the top flight having done so in his first spell at the Edinburgh club before staging an action replay with Dundee United last season.
Neilson, speaking to The Scotsman ahead of the confirmation of the promotion, said: “What happens on Saturday happens, we’ve got a game in 10 days’ time we’ve got to prepare for down at Morton, whether that’s to get over the line or whether it’s already done we’ll wait and see.
“It’s Cava in the Championship. We’ll wait and see how it goes over the weekend.”
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster congratulated the side on their achievement.
He said: “As Hearts are confirmed winners of the Scottish Championship, I would like to warmly congratulate the club’s players, management team and directors on their achievement. It’s a fantastic accomplishment and they are undoubtedly deserving champions.
“While Hearts have now sealed promotion, there remains plenty to play for in the division with play-off spots still very much up for grabs and, of course, relegation still to be decided.
“Only 11 points separate second and ninth position in the table so we can look forward to an exciting conclusion to the season.”
Neilson has started looking ahead to next season with transfer preparations already underway.
A revamp is expected with a number of new arrivals likely.
Neilson added: “It’s about turning the squad over to make sure we get a team which is competitive next year.”