United left Tynecastle Park empty-handed after a 5-3 defeat to Heart of Midlothian on Saturday. Stephen Kingsley opened the scoring early on before an emphatic second half turned the game on its head twice. Ayr took the lead through Cammy Smith and Luke McCowan but the Jam Tarts responded with a double from Craig Wighton and two further goals from Olly Lee and Liam Boyce. Tom Walsh clawed one back in the dying moments, but the full three points went to Hearts.
Manager Mark Kerr made one change to the starting line-up with Michael Miller coming in for Bruce Anderson.
Hearts recorded an early chance only two minutes in when Stephen Kingsley delivered a well-worked cross into the box, but Elliott Frear knocked it just past the back post. On the other end of the pitch, Andy Murdoch had a shot on goal after Aaron Muirhead found the midfielder in the box, but his effort took a deflection and went out.
The Jam Tarts opened the scoring with just under 10 minutes played. Kingsley lifted a free kick from 25 yards over the wall and it squirmed under the grasp of Viljami Sinisalo into the net.
Michael Smith almost added a second on 16 mins with a blasting shot from distance, but the ball smashed off the right post and out. Joe Chalmers meanwhile directed a free kick from 20 yards on target, but Hearts keeper Craig Gordon was unimpressed and kept the scoreline as it was with a routine save.
The hosts created a double chance on 25 mins, working the ball right to left for Frear whose shot was deflected wide. Hearts re-won possession to set up Christophe Berra for a header from inside the box, but the effort did not trouble Sinisalo.
Despite a low pace, the game was end-to-end with both sides showing intent, but clear-cut chances remained sparse. Hearts had good fluidity in their team and players kept swapping positions to keep United on their toes. The Ayr defence held their opponents at bay while Cammy Smith was vivid down the left and particularly Murdoch looked lively up front.
United capitalised on a poor clearance from Gordon on 43 mins to set up Luke McCowan on the right, but his effort hit the side netting and the Honest Men went into the break with one goal against them.
The first chance after the restart went the hosts' way, but Sinisalo went down to save Kingsley's shot from distance. Moments after, Frear cut back for Olly Lee at six yards, but his effort took a deflection off Sam Roscoe and went wide.
Ayr levelled the game on 56 mins when Murdoch broke down the right and met Michael Moffat with a great ball in. The striker flicked it on to Smith who half volleyed the ball past Gordon and it was all to play for again.
Three minutes later, United took the lead and turned the game on its head. Smith delivered a cross into the box and although an initial attempt was defended, the ball landed with McCowan who smashed it goalwards at an angle and beat Gordon to make it 2-1.
Hearts upped the tempo in response and equalised on 67 mins. Berra played down the left and brought a short pass back into the box and into the path of Craig Wighton who finished from close range.
On 70 mins, the Jam Tarts went back in front. A poorly cleared cross in from Kingsley fell to Lee who blasted home and it was 3-2.
Hearts gained full control when they extended their lead to two goals three minutes later. Wighton collected the ball 25 yards out, spun and drilled a low shot past Sinisalo.
Liam Boyce made it five on 80 mins and definitely put the game to bed. Wighton spun his man 40 yards out, drove forward and slipped in Boyce who fired home on his left foot.
United showed a final sign of life on 93 mins with their third goal of the game. Substitute Tom Walsh capitalised on a poor pass back from Michael Smith and a mix-up at the back to lift the ball into the net and grab another one back.
The damage was already done though and the final whistle sealed a 5-3 scoreline at Tynecastle.
Ayr drop down to sixth in the Championship standings, one point adrift of both Greenock Morton and Dundee and one ahead of Inverness.