"Even to have got that far and close in itself, was a victory. I'm not accepting failure... but you have to rationalise what had been achieved. We had taken this two-bit business that was within days of closure and turned it into a fighting force that the rest of Scottish football at least had some respect for" - Wallace Mercer
Celtic won the league while Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen side took both the Scottish Cup and the League Cup.
However, for those who remember that season, it is a campaign remembered for a team who did not win a single prize.
This was the season when Scottish football got one of its major players back at the card table having soon long been excluded from the pontoon school for being a soft touch for easy money.
Heart of Midlothian had for nigh on two decades been in a right old state. The team that once wreaked havoc upon the Old Firm during the 1950s, seemed like an all too distant memory come the 80s.
Hearts were third from bottom and many were steeling themselves for a battle against relegation.
A 1-1 draw at home to Dundee didn't do much to inspire supporters present at Tynecastle that day that the shoots of recovery were in the offing.
What they didn't know was that this point was the humble beginnings of what would be a league title challenge.
Aberdeen were next up at Tynecastle and were riding a crest of a wave having days earlier trounced Hibs 3-0 to win the League Cup at Hampden. They were vying with Celtic for top spot in the league and seemed certain to add part two of their capital scalp hunt that week against Hearts.
However, Hearts played out of their skin that night. Craig Levein took advantage of some rare hesitancy from Dons keeper Jim Leighton to head home. Aberdeen tried to turn the screw on their hosts only to find a resoluteness that that had hitherto not been seen that season.
When they did manage to breach the defence in the final minute, they found goalkeeper Henry Smith making the type of save (from a Neil Simpson effort) that Leighton at the other end had built his reputation on.
To have beaten the best team in Scotland at the time, and also one of the best in Europe, was a tremendous shot in the arm and Hearts capitalised on that by going on a run that saw them rise up the table - including a shock 1-0 win at Celtic via John Robertson's first half strike.
It was around this time that the Gorgie side found themselves as the only team having a regular fixture every weekend.
Scotland had finished second in their World Cup qualifying group which meant they had to compete in a two-legged play-off against Oceania champions, Australia.
The Scots won the first leg at Hampden 2-0 and clubs such as Aberdeen, Celtic and Dundee United had to postpone a number of fixtures as the bulk of their squads were in Melbourne to at first acclimatise to the inevitable jet-lag, and then play against Australia in the deciding leg (a 0-0 draw ensured qualification).
Hearts at this time were deemed not to have any players 'good enough' to be called up for Scotland duty (although years later Henry Smith, John Colquhoun, Gary Mackay and Robertson would all be capped).
However, Sandy Jardine later admitted that it had been a good thing at the time because not having any players make the Australia trip ensured that momentum was not broken with regards to this unbeaten run that was beginning to flower.
By December 21, 1985, a 1-0 win at St Mirren meant that for the first time since 1973, Hearts were top of the league. While Aberdeen, Celtic and Dundee United still had games in hand, it was nevertheless a welcoming sight for fans who four years earlier were doubtful that they would even have a team to support.
The festive period brought more joy as a Colquhoun double gave them a rare win at Ibrox against Rangers while the New Year derby also went Hearts' way with goals from Ian Jardine, Robertson and Sandy Clark giving them a 3-1 victory over Hibs.
However, the acid test of any title credentials was coming up fast - Pittodrie.
"After a defeat at Clydebank, I scratched my head and turned round to our club secretary, Les Porteous, and I said 'Les, what are we going to do'?" - Wallace Mercer
With the benefit of hindsight, it looked as if the club, as a penance for their title loss calamity, were staging a managed decline of this footballing institution.
Performances in the league gradually worsened, star players suddenly found themselves becoming an endangered species and, hard to believe for younger Hearts fans, Edinburgh derbies were occasions that filled your average Jambo with dread - a far cry from today's expectant hubris amongst the support when Hibs are the opposition.
Relegation came with some inevitability in 1977 and although they came back up the following season, back they went the other way nine months later. In fact this cycle repeated itself again and come 1981, not only were Hearts back in the 2nd tier for the third time in their history, they were in danger of dying an inglorious death.
Crowds were struggling to hit a couple of thousand and a shock Scottish Cup defeat to lowly Forfar had many thinking maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to put this old dog to sleep lest memories of the long-departed glory days be tainted even further.
Step forward Wallace Mercer.
The Edinburgh businessman had been persuaded by former Hearts striker, Donald Ford, to invest in the club which by this stage was days away from being wound up. Slowly but surely, Mercer began to put the foundations in place from which Hearts could try and haul themselves away from their predicament.
Alex MacDonald was made player-manager and, along with assistant Sandy Jardine, set about shaping the playing squad into a unit that could at the very least compete.
Promotion back into the top-flight was won in 1983 and a year later, the new regime had won European qualification for the club with a squad that had a fine balance of both youth and experience.
They consolidated their Premier league status the following year but what happened afterwards has long-since stayed in the memory of every supporter who witnessed it.
At the start of the 1985-86 season, had you waltzed into the bookies and placed a bet on Hearts winning the league, you would have been laughed at and also advised by Honest John behind the counter to try putting on a wager for European qualification instead as he didn't want to take your easy money.
The odds given to Hearts winning the league back in the summer of 1985 were 150-1.
Ferguson's Aberdeen were red-hot favourites having won it the previous two years with Celtic and Jim McLean's Dundee United hotly tipped to be in close pursuit. Rangers were next in the pecking order although the squad at Ibrox was one of the weakest since time immemorial. Even St Mirren were given more of a chance than Hearts.
"The manager got us all together and said, 'look, let's kid ourselves no longer... we can win the title, so let's go on and do it'" - John Robertson
Both sides of the Old Firm regularly had their collars felt at Pittodrie, Dundee United would get the odd arrow through only to have boiling oil poured on them and many of Europe's best such as Bayern Munich went home in shock after receiving a skelping.
As he would later do with Old Trafford when taking the Manchester United job, Alex Ferguson had turned Pittodrie into a place where many teams travelled to in fear instead of hope.
Despite having beaten Aberdeen at Tynecastle, Hearts had already come a cropper on two occasions in the north east having been knocked out of the League Cup and losing a league fixture there.
It would be here where the unbeaten run and the title challenge would hit the rails. You just didn't beat Fergie's Aberdeen in their own backyard did you? Hearts had other ideas.
The Dons hadn't lost at home for 13 months but Hearts midfield squared up to them and it came as no surprise to those present when with 83 minutes gone, Colquhoun fired in Walter Kidd's through ball to grab a 1-0 win and have the doubters reassessing their scepticism of a title bid.
Things were also progressing nicely in the Scottish Cup as well. Rangers were seen off in a dramatic 3-2 victory at Tynecastle with Hamilton falling by the wayside in the next round.
A Smith-inspired display in goal at Parkhead saw Hearts come away with a draw against Celtic while back in the cup, St Mirren were brushed aside 4-1 as the Jambos booked their place in the semi-finals.
"The feeling that the crowd give you on the way to a game was tremendous... you're not going to get beat... you are not going to get beat... you score one, we'll score two" - Henry Smith
An Edinburgh derby at Easter Road looked like a potential banana skin.
Even though they had reached the League Cup final earlier that season and like Hearts, reached the last four of the Scottish Cup, Hibs' league form was a pale shadow of the side that a decade or so earlier under Eddie Turnbull had threatened to topple Jock Stein's Celtic.
However, having had an earful of how well their capital rivals were doing, this was their chance to embarrass them. Hearts themselves were as determined to put their old foes firmly under their thumb - they had after all, not lost to them since winning promotion three years prior to this game.
Hearts won 2-1 via a Clark strike and a Robertson penalty. It was a bit of an untidy spectacle to say the least with Doug Baillie of 'The Sunday Post' writing in his match report:
"I know Hibs and Hearts were battling to see who would be king of the castle but they could surely have gone about it with more regard for each other's health."
St Mirren were dispatched 3-0 three days later and Rangers were torn apart in Tynecastle as Hearts ran out 3-1 winners in a match where many felt they could have won by more.
Then came a double-header against Dundee United.
The first match was at Hampden in the Scottish Cup semi-final where a tight encounter was settled by Colquhoun's early volley which booked their first cup final appearance in 10 years.
A week later came the match many had tipped as being the title decider. First place Hearts were travelling to second placed Dundee United. Another tight match was expected but a superb long-range effort from Robertson gave Hearts the lead. While goals from Clark and Robertson again in the second half sealed a vital 3-0 win.
Then TV threw a spanner in the works.
"We felt it would put extra pressure on the players and we didn't want the game to be moved and shown live on TV" - Sandy Jardine
It only seemed a matter of time before Scottish football followed suit and STV squared it with the Scottish Football League for a live screening of Hearts' home match against Aberdeen on Sunday, April 20, 1986.
Hearts wanted no part of it and protested. Chairman Mercer argued that it would interrupt the continuity of playing on the Saturday and would also place more pressure on his team should fellow rivals Celtic and Dundee United win 24 hours before the Edinburgh team kicked off.
The SFL yielded to the pound signs being flashed to them and told Hearts to play on the Sunday. Celtic and Dundee United both won and while Aberdeen's own challenge had run out of gas, they still had players playing for cup final places as this fixture would essentially be a dress rehearsal for the big Hampden match against Hearts in a month's time.
Hearts put in a nervous performance and although they fell behind to a controversial penalty, no one to this day knows who handled the ball first - Hearts' Ian Jardine or Aberdeen's Jim Bett, the Dons were deserving of their lead.
However, just when it looked as if the run would come to an end, Colquhoun volleyed in from close-range to secure a point.
The pressure though was beginning to tell as the following week, Hearts put in another nervy display in their last home fixture of the season and could only see off rock bottom Clydebank 1-0 with Mackay the scorer.
Nevertheless, the title was still in Hearts' hands. Dundee United's own challenge fell when St Mirren did what only the Jambos had done that season by beating the men in tangerine at Tannadice.
Celtic meanwhile had been catching up on their games in hand which had been left over due to Scotland's Australian jaunt back in December. They had managed to get themselves within shooting distance of Hearts going into the last Saturday of the league season.
Hearts though just needed a point from their fixture at Dens Park against Dundee. Even if they lost, Celtic could only win it if they gave St Mirren a thrashing at Love Street.
Given St Mirren had killed off the title dream of a very strong Dundee United side (five of their players would make Scotland's World Cup squad that summer), surely they would pose just as stern a challenge to Celtic?
"I don't blame St Mirren for us not winning the league; it was in our hands. But I ask them: how well do they think they played? There’s trying and there’s really trying" - Sandy Clark
A flu bug had worked it's way into Tynecastle forcing four players to miss the bulk of the week's training. One of which, Craig Levein, would still be afflicted by it come the day of the game.
Throw into the mix that Dundee had something to play for. If they beat Hearts and Rangers failed to beat Motherwell, Dundee would qualify to play in the Uefa Cup the following season.
Hearts have a decent first half-hour and are denied what appears to be a clear penalty when Clark is fouled by Colin Hendry only for play to be waved on.
Half-time arrives and with it, the news from Love Street - Celtic are 4-0 up.
"I went to Love Street a few days after the end of the season, and there was a package with an Edinburgh postmark waiting for me. I didn't like the look of it, so I handed it to chairman Louis Kane to open. It was a s***" - Frank McGarvey
Brian McClair had given them an early lead before Maurice Johnston scored twice inside the space of a minute. Paul McStay added a fourth. McClair would add a fifth 10 minutes into the second-half.
While Celtic were in top gear, St Mirren were like rabbits in front of the headlights.
It was not entirely unexpected that they could lose to Celtic, but it was bewildering how a side that played so well in quashing Dundee United's own title hopes on their own turf the week before, could, seven days later, look as if they had all met each other for the first time.
Various bits of conjecture have flown all over the place since then but the fact remains, Celtic had played extremely well that day. Not to mention, the destiny of the title was still in Hearts' hands.
"How low, how drained, how flat and how empty you felt afterwards. You had felt that you had let every single person who had supported Hearts down" - John Robertson
Robertson and Mackay look listless. Ian Jardine is clearly running on empty. Only Clark seems to looking his usual self but he alone can't get what Hearts need. Then it happened...
Dundee throw on substitute Albert Kidd and with seven minutes of the league season left, he makes a devastating impact as he puts his side 1-0 up.
Hearts pour forward in order to retrieve the situation but Dundee hit them on the counter with Kidd, who would be cheekily named as Hibs supporters' player of the year for that season, scoring a second.
There will be no title party for Hearts. The league crown will be Celtic's. Dundee meanwhile have their own joy short-lived as it transpires that Rangers have beaten Motherwell. No European football at Dens.
It was also a cruel irony that had the goal average system which had denied Hearts the title back in 1965 been in place 21 years later instead of goal difference, the title would have been Edinburgh-bound.
For Hearts fans, as horrible this may have been, there was still a cup final to look forward to. You just wondered if the team would be able to recover from football's version of shell-shock.
"Even though we won, this season has belonged to Hearts. I'm as sick as anybody that they didn't get the trophy that they deserved" - Alex Ferguson
The Dons had been accustomed to bagging at least two trophies a season and Ferguson was in no mood to be sentimental towards his former Rangers team-mates, MacDonald and Sandy Jardine.
And so it proved. Aberdeen grabbed a sixth minute lead via John Hewitt. Although Robertson spurned a great chance to equalise when his lob over Leighton just went over the bar, Hearts were effectively chasing shadows.
Billy Stark made it 2-0 early in the second half and Hewitt again popped up to add a third. To compound Hearts' misery, Kidd was sent off late on.
Empty-handed they might have been and with only a spot in the following season's Uefa Cup as a consolation prize, season 1985-86 was, as Wallace Mercer correctly observed, a victory in itself.
No silverware to show for it perhaps but it showed that Hearts were once again a credible force in Scottish football. It would be years before the trophies would come back to the Tynecastle cabinet but it was that campaign which reinstilled the belief that they could compete which had been lacking in the dark days of the late 70s and early 80s.
However, that is not to say that what happened on that final day at Dens still has some people thinking, "If only".
"If we had won it, we wouldn't have had half the column inches, or half the amount of people talking about us, or half the amount of interviews, or half the amount of media space that we've had because of what happened. And I would trade it all. Every column inch, every interview and everything, to just get a goal with ten minutes to go at Dens Park. No question - because we deserved it" - John Colquhoun