Livi reached the quarter-finals of the Betfred Cup for the first time in 12 years as they saw off Falkirk after extra time on a dramatic night at the Falkirk Stadium.
Not since Paul Lambert led the Lions to the semi-finals in 2005/06 had they gone beyond the last-16 but, after James Craigen had cancelled out Scott Robinson’s opener, Raffaele De Vita struck 11 minutes into extra time to send them into the last eight.
David Hopkin made two changes to the side that started the Championship opener against Dunfermline as Jackson Longridge and Dale Carrick dropped out. Nicky Cadden and Robinson came in while Dylan Mackin replaced the suspended Nikolay Todorov on the bench.
The first chance of the match went the way of the Bairns inside two minutes as Nathan Austin, who had started the season with four goals in five games, tried his luck with a volley from 25 yards that dipped a few yards over the bar. Livi’s first threat saw Danny Mullen played in down the right but his backheeled cut back was turned against Josh Mullin by a Falkirk defender and the ball ran out of play.
Livi had their first sight of goal on 14 minutes when Robbie Thomson flapped at a corner and the ball dropped to Shaun Byrne. He teed up Robinson but his effort flew high over the bar. Up the other end, Neil Alexander punched away Myles Hippolyte’s long throw as far as Austin, who curled his effort well wide. Hippolyte then tried his luck with a free kick from 30 yards but his effort flew miles over.
The home side almost took the lead on 27 minutes when Alexander beat Austin to a loose ball outside the box but his header fell to Hippolyte, who lobbed the ball back over the keeper’s head only for Craig Halkett to get back and clear the ball off the line.
It proved a crucial clearance as Livi broke the deadlock give minutes later. Mullin did well to intercept a crossfield ball before driving forward. He laid the ball wide for Mullen who curled in a perfect low cross which was met at the near post by Robinson and he swept a fine first-time finish past Thomson.
The Lions almost doubled their lead on 38 minutes when Keaghan Jacobs fed Cadden and he jinked into space before firing in a shot that was deflected wide for a corner. The corner was cleared as far as Mullin whose cross looked perfect for Lithgow until Thomson got a vital touch to take it off the Livi man’s head.
Peter Houston’s side made the most of that intervention as they drew level two minutes later when Craigen got in behind the Livi defence before turning inside Jacobs and slotting past Alexander to send the teams in at the interval all square.
Half-time: Falkirk 1-1 Livingston
It was visitors who showed the first threat in the second half as Byrne played a ball over the top towards Mullen but the ball bounced just too high for the Livi frontman and out for a goal kick. Eight minutes later, Cadden curled a 25-yard free kick straight at Thomson after he had been brought down by Tom Taiwo.
Falkirk made their first change on 58 minutes as Lee Miller replaced Alex Harris before the Lions made a double switch five minutes later, sending on Longridge and Carrick for Robinson and Cadden.
Another chance fell Livi’s way on 64 minutes when Declan Gallagher’s long throw found Scott Pittman. His shot was blocked and fell to Lithgow, but his effort met the same fate. Mullin’s resulting corner was headed back across goal by Gallagher for Halkett but he fired high over the bar from close range.
Two minutes later Halkett found Byrne on the right but his cross was fractionally too high for Carrick. Gallagher then picked up a yellow card for hauling back Hippolyte.
Falkirk’s second change saw one ex-Lion replace another as Joe McKee replaced Hippolyte on 70 minutes. After Livi made their change, De Vita replacing Mullen, McKee came close to making an instant impact as he clipped the crossbar with a free kick from 30 yards. He had another set-piece chance two minutes later but this time his effort flew straight at Alexander.
Another McKee free kick was met by Paul Watson on 81 minutes but his header was saved easily by Alexander. Watson then picked up a yellow card for a reckless challenge on Pittman in midfield before a fine cross from Longridge was met by Carrick but he couldn’t sort his body out and his effort bounced harmlessly wide.
The Bairns came within a whisker of winning it on 88 minutes when McKee’s free kick fell at the back post and Alexander made a stunning reaction save low to his left from the initial shot before Halkett cleared the rebound off the line. Livi broke up the other end and Mullin let fly from fully 40 yards but Thomson was right behind and saved well.
Falkirk made their third change in the first minute of stoppage time as Rory Loy replaced Austin before Livi almost won it at the death when Lithgow’s free kick was flicked by Gallagher to De Vita but Thomson was out smartly to block his close range effort and take the tie to extra-time.
Full-time: Falkirk 1-1 Livingston
The extra period got off to a frenetic start, with play flying from end to end, but neither goalkeeper was tested until Thomson picked the ball out of his net on 102 minutes as Livi went back in front with a similar goal to the opener. Mullin was the provider this time as he curled in low cross and De Vita flicked an exquisite finish through his legs into the far corner of the net.
The Italian almost made it 3-1 two minutes later when he found space at the edge of the box and fired in a low drive that trundled just wide. Mullin picked up a soft yellow card on 105 minutes before the sides changed ends with the Lions in front.
ET Half-time: Falkirk 1-2 Livingston
Livi were looking comfortable despite their narrow lead and won a free kick on 108 minutes when Watson hauled down Carrick. Halkett stepped up and put his laces through it but his shot flew high over the bar.
There was a moment of history on 113 minutes as the Lions made their fourth substitution, sending on Dylan Mackin for second-half sub Carrick before Byrne thrilled the Livi support with some sublime skill to win his side a corner.
The Lions came close to a third goal on 118 minutes when Mackin did well down the right and fired in a low cross that found its way to Mullin but his shot was parried by Thomson. Falkirk were growing increasingly desperate and peppered the Livi box with crosses from either side but eventually one was overhit and the pressure was lifted.
The Lions screamed for a penalty in the final minute as Mackin was brought down but ref Andrew Dallas waved the claims away. It mattered little as Dallas’ next intervention brought the match to an end, ensuring that Livi’s unexpected run in the Betfred Cup continued.
ET Full-time: Falkirk 1-2 Livingston
Falkirk: Thomson, Grant, Taiwo, Kerr, Austin (Loy 90), Hippolyte (McKee 69), Gasparotto, Harris (Miller 57), Gallacher, Craigen (Shepherd 102), Watson
Subs not used: Mitchell, O’Hara, Blues
Goals: Craigen (40)
Livingston: Alexander, Lithgow, Byrne, Mullin, Pittman, Mullen (De Vita 73), Cadden (Longridge 62), Jacobs, Robinson (Carrick 63 (Mackin 113)), Halkett, Gallagher
Subs not used:, Knox, Maley, Peters
Goals: Robinson (32), De Vita (101)
Referee: Andrew Dallas
Match Report: Andy Crawford