Celtic completed a historic quadruple treble with a dramatic penalty shootout win over Hearts to lift the Scottish Cup for a 40th time.
Kristoffer Ajer supplied the vital finish to the 2019-20 competition, which took 16 months to complete.
Ryan Christie and Odsonne Edouard had Celtic cruising by half-time.
But Liam Boyce and Stephen Kingsley sent it into extra time, Leigh Griffiths restored the lead then Josh Ginnelly’s goal led to penalties.
The Celtic board had given its backing to manager Neil Lennon amid demonstrations outside their stadium calling for their former player’s dismissal during a five-game run without a win – and his side have now responded with three consecutive victories.
Hearts, still smarting at having been relegated after the season was called in March, had arrived at the national stadium clear leaders of the Championship and looking to lift the trophy for a ninth time, but they left having suffered a ninth consecutive defeat by the Glasgow side.
The speculation before kick-off was not just about Lennon’s future but about whether he would stick with the side that had effectively saved his job with wins over Lille and Kilmarnock.
His decision to restore captain Scott Brown and Christie to midfield appeared to prove crucial as his side strolled the first half, although not before Steven Naismith’s toe-poke past Conor Hazard, the 22-year-old goalkeeper hesitating coming for a through ball, had trickled wide of the gaping empty goalmouth.
Hesitation is not something that Christie displays whenever he is given a sight at goal and, when Hearts gave the Scotland midfielder too much time to make his trademark run inside from the right touchline, he unleashed a stunning drive into the far corner that matched his semi-final finish against Aberdeen.
It looked to be all over within 30 minutes as referee John Beaton pointed to the spot after centre-half Christophe Berra’s wayward hand touched the ball in a crowded goalmouth and Edouard’s cheeky, chipped penalty left former team-mate Craig Gordon looking angry and embarrassed.
However, Hearts regrouped after the break and the game turned when Boyce rose to head home former Rangers midfielder Andy Halliday’s cross.
Hazard came to Celtic’s rescue to save from Ginnelly after a mix-up between Shane Duffy and Christopher Jullien, but when the goalkeeper flapped at the substitute winger’s subsequent corner, Christie was unable to prevent Kingsley’s header crossing the line – a fact confirmed by goal-line technology.
Two old Celtic warriors looked to have won it as they combined to beat another, substitute striker Griffiths thumping home after goalkeeper Gordon blocked Brown’s header.
However, when Hazard failed to gather a free-kick inside a packed penalty box, Ginnelly finished from Kingsley’s header across goal to send a Hampden thriller that deserved packed stands instead of an empty stadium to a penalty shootout.
Just when it looked like Gordon, who had never lost a cup final in nine appearances as a junior or senior, would come back to haunt his former club when he saved from Christie, young pretender Hazard responded by keeping out spot kicks from Kingsley and Craig Wighton.
The final word would come from Ajer, the Norwegian sending his kick past Gordon to ensure he, his team-mates and Lennon’s place in the record books and leave Hearts wondering what might have been.
Man of the match – Josh Ginnelly
What did we learn?
Nobody can take away this historic moment from Lennon – the first to win a treble as both player and manager – and his Celtic side. The victory should also be another step towards dousing the clamour for the Northern Irishman to be replaced as manager, but their fragility in both defence and mentality were again in evidence.
We will never know what the implications would have been if they had squandered such an opportunity – and a two-goal lead – to a side from a league below. What we will know soon enough is whether this will be a turning point as they look to reduce the 16-point gap with Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premiership.
Despite their defeat, Hearts can gain confidence from the scare they gave the once dominant force in Scottish football. Already strong favourites for the Championship title and promotion, they proved the point that they are a top-flight side in everything but name.
There’s little rest for Lennon’s history makers as they host bottom side Ross County on Premiership duty on Wednesday (18:00), while Hearts have until Saturday to lick their wounds and go again in the Championship at home to Ayr United (15:00).
Heart of Midlothian
- 35AjerBooked at 91mins
- 2JullienBooked at 116mins
- 4DuffySubstituted forJohnstonat 90′minutes
- 3TaylorSubstituted forLaxaltat 83′minutes
- 8BrownSubstituted forSoroat 105′minutes
- 42McGregorBooked at 107mins
- 14TurnbullSubstituted forRogicat 68′minutes
- 27ElyounoussiBooked at 71minsSubstituted forFrimpongat 83′minutes
- 22EdouardSubstituted forGriffithsat 97′minutes
- 1GordonBooked at 29mins
- 2SmithBooked at 105mins
- 19IrvingSubstituted forFrearat 109′minutes
- 16HallidayBooked at 33minsSubstituted forHaringat 90′minutes
- 7WalkerBooked at 51minsSubstituted forGinnellyat 57′minutes
- 14NaismithBooked at 62mins
- 3WhiteSubstituted forLeeat 82′minutes
- 10BoyceSubstituted forWightonat 70′minutesBooked at 88mins
- John Beaton
Match ends, Celtic 3(4), Heart of Midlothian 3(3).
Penalty Shootout ends, Celtic 3(4), Heart of Midlothian 3(3).
Goal! Celtic 3(4), Heart of Midlothian 3(3). Kristoffer Ajer (Celtic) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the centre of the goal.
Penalty saved! Craig Wighton (Heart of Midlothian) fails to capitalise on this great opportunity, right footed shot saved in the bottom right corner.
Goal! Celtic 3(3), Heart of Midlothian 3(3). Michael Johnston (Celtic) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Penalty saved! Stephen Kingsley (Heart of Midlothian) fails to capitalise on this great opportunity, left footed shot saved in the bottom left corner.
Penalty saved! Ryan Christie (Celtic) fails to capitalise on this great opportunity, left footed shot saved in the top left corner.
Goal! Celtic 3(2), Heart of Midlothian 3(3). Olly Lee (Heart of Midlothian) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom right corner.
Goal! Celtic 3(2), Heart of Midlothian 3(2). Callum McGregor (Celtic) converts the penalty with a left footed shot to the bottom right corner.
Goal! Celtic 3(1), Heart of Midlothian 3(2). Michael Smith (Heart of Midlothian) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the high centre of the goal.
Goal! Celtic 3(1), Heart of Midlothian 3(1). Leigh Griffiths (Celtic) converts the penalty with a left footed shot to the centre of the goal.
Goal! Celtic 3, Heart of Midlothian 3(1). Steven Naismith (Heart of Midlothian) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the centre of the goal.
Penalty Shootout begins Celtic 3, Heart of Midlothian 3.
Second Half Extra Time ends, Celtic 3, Heart of Midlothian 3.
Attempt missed. Tomas Rogic (Celtic) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Diego Laxalt.
Offside, Heart of Midlothian. Craig Wighton tries a through ball, but Josh Ginnelly is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Craig Halkett (Heart of Midlothian) header from the centre of the box misses to the right following a set piece situation.
Christopher Jullien (Celtic) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Christopher Jullien (Celtic).
Craig Wighton (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the attacking half.