Livi were hit with a late sucker punch as Dumbarton snatched a draw to ensure the Lions will spend Christmas in the relegation play-off spot of the Ladbrokes Championship.
Mark Burchill’s side looked set for a first league win since the end of October thanks to Scott Pittman’s 14th-minute goal only for Steven Saunders to strike from close range with two minutes left to stun their hosts and make it six visits to West Lothian without defeat for the Sons.
The Livi boss made just one change to his side from last week’s desperate showing in defeat to Alloa as Jordyn Sheerin came in for Liam Buchanan, who dropped to the bench, and it was the big striker who had the game’s first chance as a corner fell to him in the box but he could only send his shot over the bar.
Livi were already showing more threat than they had in the whole 90 minutes against Alloa and they were rewarded with the opening goal on 14 minutes when good pressure from Jordan White forced an error in the Dumbarton defence, allowing him to play in Sheerin. He could have taken the shot himself but chose to unselfishly set up Pittman for an easy tap-in to make it 1-0.
Dumbarton forced their first corner soon after but Livi dealt with it well before heading up the other end to force a corner of their own. Kieran Gibbons’ cross was met by Sheerin but he could only head wide. The Sons then had their first effort of note as Kevin Cawley headed just over.
Jackson Longridge drove forward and fizzed in a terrific cross which was just inches in front of three Livi attackers as it whistled across goal. White then picked up the game’s first caution for a foul on Saunders. The half ended with a penalty shout for Dumbarton as Longridge seemed to clip Frazer Wright in the box but nothing was given as Livi went in at the break with a vital one-goal lead.
Half-time: Livingston 1-0 Dumbarton
The second half was a slow burner to start with, the visitors having the first effort of note with a 25-yard free kick which was deflected away for a corner. Livi were starting to look a bit jittery but still looked to attack where possible and Sheerin did well to send in a great cross on the stretch which was just fractionally too high for White. Sheerin and White then linked up again but the latter’s attempted lay off for Gibbons was intercepted. As the Lions grew nervous, Dumbarton grew in confidence and Wright was close to an equaliser with a header which McCallum did well to tip over.
There was a welcome sight for the Lions as Danny Mullen returned to first-team action in place of Sheerin for what was his first appearance since mid-September. Mullen was straight into the action as he won a free kick which Gibbons flighted in but Mark Brown gathered it easily. Mullen then sent in a cross which was met by Pittman but, under pressure, his header went wide.
Just when it looked like the Lions were going to hold on, they suffered a sickening late blow as McCallum failed to claim a corner which came back off the post and fell for Saunders to fire home from close range and snatch a point. Despite that body blow, Livi came close to a winner as a neat chip from Gary Glen was just tipped over by Brown. From the resulting corner, Ben Gordon’s header was easily claimed and Dumbarton held on.
Full-time: Livingston 1-1 Dumbarton
The Lions face another crunch match next weekend as they travel to Paisley to take on the side directly above them in the table, St Mirren. The Buddies have a new manager in place in Alex Rae and claimed a crucial win last weekend but Livi have never lost in Paisley and will hope to continue that record on Boxing Day.
Livingston: McCallum, Longridge, Gordon, Pittman, Faria, White (Mullen 74), Gallagher, Neill, Gibbons, Sheerin, Glen
Subs not used: Jamieson, Millen, Hippolyte, Georgiev, Buchanan, Currie
Goals: Pittman (14)
Dumbarton: Brown, Docherty, Saunders, Crawley (Gibson 70), Gallagher, Fleming, Barr, McCallum (Kirkpatrick 86), Routledge (Craig 82), Lindsay, Wright
Subs not used: Ewings, Buchanan, Waters, Brown
Goals: Saunders (89)
Referee: Mat Northcroft
Match report: Andy crawford