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Hearts brought an end to their losing run in emphatic fashion as they hammered Ross County to move back to within two points of third place in the cinch Premiership.

Five straight defeats had cost Robbie Neilson his job as manager and another against rivals Hibernian followed last weekend but interim replacement Steven Naismith tasted victory for the first time as he oversaw a devastating display.

Three goals in 11 minutes from Alex Cochrane, Josh Ginnelly and Lawrence Shankland blew Ross County away in the first half and lifted the gloom at Tynecastle.

Shankland added a fourth from the spot in injury time before the break and a second from Ginnelly in the 57th minute sparked yet more embarrassment for the visitors.

Shankland added his hat-trick just two minutes later and a late penalty from Owura Edwards was little consolation for County, who remain rooted to the bottom.

Naismith had urged his side to show more of an attacking threat and Cochrane wormed his way into the left side of the box early on, but Ginnelly screwed his cutback across goal and wide.

Barrie McKay then drilled an effort over after Shankland had chested the ball down into his path.

Alex Iacovitti had to block a Ginnelly shot in the 16th minute but the opener arrived just a minute later.

Shankland attempted a give-and-go with Ginnelly at the edge of the box but it was Cochrane who seized on the lay-off to rifle a right-footed shot into the bottom corner.

County needed to settle back into the game but Hearts had their tails up and doubled their lead in the 22nd minute.

A long through-ball sent Ginnelly through on goal and he cut back inside to curl his shot into the top corner for a goal that was awarded following a VAR check for offside.

Cochrane then turned provider for the third with a chipped cross from the left as Shankland out-muscled Connor Randall to aim a downward header back across goal and into the bottom corner.

Just two minutes later, the Hearts skipper came within a whisker of adding a fourth but his lob rebounded back off the crossbar.

With Ross Laidlaw denying Cammy Devlin with a superb low save and Peter Haring driving just over, it was one-way traffic and in danger of becoming humiliating for the visitors.

And in first-half injury time Shankland did add to County’s misery with a fourth from the spot after tumbling over the outstretched leg of Dylan Smith, the penalty awarded by VAR.

There was no respite for County after the break as the relentless Jambos turned the screw.

Jordan White should have pulled one back for the Staggies but headed against the bar from point-blank range.

But then Ginnelly speared in the fifth from 25 yards 11 minutes after the break when he turned inside on a throw-in from the left.

Just two minutes later, Yutaro Oda made a bee-line for the County goal and when he was stopped in his tracks, Shankland seized on the loose ball to chip brilliantly into the net from 10 yards.

The Jambos threatened a seventh on more than one occasion but the visitors had the final say as Edwards won a foot race with Cochrane to gain possession before chopping inside and being brought down by Hearts’ first goalscorer.

The substitute slotted in from the spot to deny the home side a first clean sheet in seven games.