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Lawrence Shankland’s brace helped Hearts to a 2-1 victory away to Motherwell whose winless streak now stands at nine games.

The striker netted in each half to send Steven Naismith’s men up into fourth place in the cinch Premiership, just two points off third.

Blair Spittal converted a 78th-mintue penalty to reduce the deficit but Hearts held on to record a precious away victory.

Motherwell made one change from the midweek draw with St Johnstone, with Theo Bair in for Brodie Spencer.

Hearts, in turn, made three changes after losing the Viaplay Cup semi-final to Rangers. In came Liam Boyce, Alan Forrest and Alex Lowry, with Toby Sibbick, Jorge Grant and Kenneth Vargas making way

It was the visitors who had the first chance with Lowry curling an effort wide, before Bair headed off target from Spittal’s corner at the other end.

Hearts should have moved in front after 16 minutes. Calum Butcher was dispossessed in defence by Shankland, with Lowry then picking out Boyce. The Northern Irishman, though, took too long before eventually sliding his shot wide.

The visitors, however, did take the lead after 27 minutes. Lowry’s corner was headed goalwards by Frankie Kent for Shankland to help over the line from close range.

Hearts appealed for a penalty just minutes later when Boyce’s run into the block was obstructed by Dan Casey. Referee David Munro was asked by VAR to take a look at the screen but felt it did not merit a spot kick, much to Motherwell’s relief.

The visitors began the second half off still on top and Stephen Kingsley saw a near-post effort from a corner blocked before Shankland volleyed the next delivery well off target.

The striker then appealed for a penalty after a collision with Callum Slattery but VAR had a look and decided not to call the referee over for a second opinion, with the game resuming with a Motherwell free-kick.

Hearts did finally manage to get their second goal after 72 minutes and again it was Shankland who scored it.

Beni Baningime threaded a terrific pass through that Lowry dummied, allowing it to run through to Shankland, who took the ball around goalkeeper Liam Kelly before finishing well.

Motherwell were handed a lifeline five minutes later when Alex Cochrane was adjudged to have handled in the box and Spittal stroked home the penalty.

The home side rallied after that but despite late pressure never looked like finding an equaliser.