A double from Edgaras Jankauskas and a goal from Calum Elliot enabled Hearts to narrow the gap on leaders Celtic.
Jankauskas (left) celebrates his opening goal
Jankauskas put the Tynecastle side in front with a simple finish after Colin Meldrum could only turn Rudi Skacel's effort into his path.
The Lithuanian striker then made it 2-0 with a thunderous shot from 18 yards after another flowing move from Hearts.
Elliot made the points safe for the Edinburgh side with a neat clip over the advancing Meldrum.
There was an almost capacity crowd inside Tynecastle but few who could have envisaged such an exciting start to the match.
In the third minute, Scott McDonald headed a Richie Foran cross off the post and against Hearts 'keeper Craig Gordon from six yards.
Skacel then took a Takis Fyssas pass and powered into the visitors' area.
Although his angled drive from 16 yards was parried by Meldrum, Jankauskas was perfectly positioned to slide the ball high into the net from close range.
The 14th minute produced a moment of genuine class when Jankauskas made it 2-0 with a wonderful drive from 25 yards out.
The 30-year-old took a clever pass from Elliot and sent Deividas Cesnauskis scurrying clear down the right with a perfectly-weighted delivery.
When the midfielder crossed into the six-yard box, it was cleared by Fir Park defender Martyn Corrigan but Jankauskas strode forward to thunder an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
The rattled Lanarkshire side struggled to contain Hearts who were breaking with pace and purpose.
The early Jambos' frenzy subsided a little and, in the 34th minute, on a rare foray into the Gorgie penalty area, former Hearts striker Jim Hamilton headed a Brian Kerr free-kick onto the top of the net.
After the interval, the visitors began with enough confidence to suggest that they could yet rescue something from the game.
In the 57th minute, with Motherwell pushing forward, McDonald had a good chance to cut the ball back but mis-kicked.
Motherwell then had an even better chance when a Kerr free-kick was met by Stephen Craigan at the back post.
However, the Well defender's header crashed off the top of the bar before it was cleared to safety.
Hearts sealed the points shortly after when Elliot capitalised on some slack Motherwell defending to run onto a Fyssas pass and lob Meldrum from 14 yards out.
Hearts: Gordon, Neilson, Pressley, Webster, Fyssas, Cesnauskis (Johnson 83), Brellier (Mikoliunas 86), Aguiar, Skacel, Jankauskas (Bednar 69), Elliot. Subs Not Used: Banks, McAllister, Berra, Pospisil.
Booked: Cesnauskis, Elliot.
Goals: Jankauskas 4, 14, Elliot 78.
Motherwell: Meldrum, Corrigan, Craigan, McLean, Hammell, McBride (O'Donnell 72), Kerr, McCormack, Foran, Scott McDonald (McGarry 67), Hamilton (Clarkson 85). Subs Not Used: Martin, Fagan, Kinniburgh, Darren Lee Smith.
Booked: Hamilton, Kerr, Foran.
Ref: C Richmond