Kilmarnock boss Allan Johnston believes striker Kris Boyd can be the difference between his side climbing up the Scottish Premiership and languishing with the top flight’s also-rans.
The Rugby Park side are in the midst of a four-game winning run against sides struggling beside them in the bottom six.
They got off to the perfect start when former Rangers frontman Boyd grabbed the crucial winner against Partick Thistle on Saturday as they pinched the Jags’ spot in ninth place with a 2-1 win.
They now face Hearts at Tynecastle on Boxing Day before a second trip to the capital on Sunday to play Hibernian.
St Mirren will visit Ayrshire on January 2 and by the end of that run, Johnston hopes to see his men inching themselves away from the administration-hit Jambos - still stuck on minus three points at the bottom of the table - and up towards the top half.
And the former Queen of the South manager says nine-goal poacher Boyd, 30, is the man to lead that charge.
He said: “This is a really important point in our season with so many big games coming up. That’s why it was good to win the first one against Partick.
“That made it two wins out of three for us and we’re on a bit of a high right now.
“Thursday will be a hard game for us because Hearts will be desperate for a win, but one thing that is guaranteed with us and that is that we will score.
“When you’ve got the likes of Kris Boyd up front and the other attacking options we have, we are always likely to score goals.
“Having Kris there with the goals he has got us is a massive advantage compared to the other sides round about us. If you have got a top-quality striker like we do, it can make the difference.
“So we just need to make sure that defensively we keep it tight.”
That is easier said than done, though, for a Killie side who have failed to keep a clean sheet away from home all season.
And Johnston has warned his players they will have to keep a cool head as they run out in front of a Gorgie crowd whose fervent backing has been essential to keeping Gary Locke’s Hearts team going since their financial implosion last summer.
But he knows emotions will be especially high following the tragic death of former Jambos youth player Jamie Skinner, who passed away on Sunday while playing in an Under-14s match for Tynecastle FC.
Johnston played for the same club himself as a youth and said: “I started out at Tynecastle when I was 16. My assistant here at Killie, Sandy Clark, was actually my reserve team manager then and went on to give me my first-team debut for Hearts.
“Gary Locke and I came through the youth system together at Tynecastle too, so you can see what a successful set-up they have.
“But it is such a shame after what happened at the weekend with the young lad.
“It will be an emotional day on Thursday, but what is so great about the Hearts support is that they always get right behind the team, especially in circumstances like that.”