DANNY LENNON hailed striker Nigel Hasselbaink as St Mirren kept their cup dream alive with a late 2-2 draw against Hearts.
The Buddies appeared to be heading out of the competition as Paulo Sergio's side fought back through Craig Beattie and Rudi Skacel to cancel out Graham Carey's superb free kick opener at Tynecastle.
With just minutes to go in Gorgie, Hasselbaink's shot flicked off Jambos defender Marius Zaliukas and into the net to hand Lennon's side a replay at St Mirren Park, and the Paisley boss hopes they can finish the job at the second time of asking as they look to continue on the road to Hampden.
He said: "Little Nigel goes through little phases where it looks like he's tiring, but he always comes to life as soon as that ball comes near his feet and he looked a constant threat. The only thing that let him down was his final ball, but he was terrific. I was delighted for him.
"At this stage, getting a replay I'm sure the board of directors will be delighted with the extra game, and it makes for a great return match through in Paisley which gives our home fans an opportunity to get behind the team. That was us back to our best in the first half, and I'd like to see more of that."
The Buddies dominated the first half hour of the cup clash before Beattie netted his first goal for Sergio's side and Skacel continued his superb scoring record against Lennon's men. Carey's 27th minute free kick gave them the lead that their early advantage deserved, and Lennon was delighted with the performance of the former Celtic youngster as he proved his worth in attacking and defensive roles.
He said: "He's got that in his locker and, prior to the one five or 10 minutes before when he ballooned it, I think a couple of seasons ago to the day he scored one very similar. When he's as close as that I always fancy him.
"To go in on Saturday and play at left-back spoke volumes about him and that's what I love about this group of players – anything they are asked to do they do it to the letter, and I'm very proud of them."
The SPL pair will have to do it all over again as they bid for a place in the next round and a last-four tie against Celtic.
Both will feel they could have clinched a semi berth at the first attempt, and Jambos boss Sergio was full of praise for his Paisley counterparts.
He said: "The first 30 minutes St Mirren were probably the best team I have seen play here at Tynecastle against us, and I'm always saying that they are one of the best football teams in this league.
"They created a lot of problems for us and my responsibility was to change the shape because it wasn't working against them with their mobility, dancing and moving to the ball.
"I tried to change a few times then after we got that right, it was all Hearts."