Livi made it five league games unbeaten as they saw off Dumbarton to open up a four-point cushion in fourth place in the Championship table.
Goals from defensive duo Alan Lithgow and Craig Halkett, either side of Tom Walsh’s deflected equaliser, steered the Lions to a first home win over the Sons since September 2012 and maintained their storming start to life back in the second tier.
David Hopkin made one enforced change to the side that won so impressively at Falkirk the week before as Nicky Cadden came in for the suspended Declan Gallagher.
The home side started brightly and Josh Mullin was sent scampering in behind the Dumbarton defence but the ball forward had just too much height and Scott Gallacher was able to gather.
The Lions came closer on 13 minutes when Mullin and Cadden worked a short corner between them before Cadden fired in a low drive that was well saved by Gallacher. A well-worked free kick routine a minute later saw Shaun Byrne find Nikolay Todorov but no one could get on the end of his header across goal.
Livi came closer still on 15 minutes when Cadden whipped in a fine strike that was netbound until Gallacher flew through the air to push over the bar. It wasn’t long, though, before the deadlock was broken as the Lions’ pressure finally tolled when a whipped corner was met by a fine diving header from Lithgow that thundered past Gallacher for his second goal in three games.
The Lions remained dominant and Todorov tried his luck with an ambitious effort from 25 yards on 26 minutes that flew high over the roof of the north stand. The big striker-turned-defender came much closer two minutes later when he got on the end of a Cadden corner but saw his header hooked off the line.
It should have been 2-0 on 32 minutes when Danny Mullen wriggled through and teed up Cadden six yards out. He appeared to have the goal at his mercy until a Dumbarton defender came from nowhere to clear his low effort for a corner. That turned out to be Cadden’s last act as he suffered a dislocated shoulder and had to be replaced by Dylan Mackin.
The visitors were perhaps fortunate to keep a full compliment on the park as former Livi defender Craig Barr escaped without even a yellow card for a reckless lunge on Jackson Longridge, instead receiving just a final warning from ref Mat Northcroft. Kyle Hutton then did go into the book for a late challenge on Scott Pittman.
Mullen then tried his luck from long range but a deflection took all the pace off his effort and Gallacher was able to save comfortably. Longridge then went into the book for a foul on Dimitrios Froxylias in stoppage time as the Lions went in at the interval with a narrow, but deserved, lead.
Half-time: Livingston 1-0 Dumbarton
The visitors started the second half brightly and Froxylias tried his luck from distance but Neil Alexander was equal to his effort before the Lions went up the other end and Gallacher made a fine diving save to deny James Penrice.
After goalscorer Lithgow was booked for a tug on the shirt of Mark Stewart, Barr was finally cautioned for a late tackle on Mullin. Mullen then came close to doubling the Lions’ lead on 57 minutes as he cut inside but fired over the bar.
The referee was becoming an increasingly prominent figure in the match, rarely in a positive light, as he saw fit to award the visitors a corner after Walsh had got in behind and fired high over the bar. The Lions countered from that corner and Scott Pittman appeared to be bundled over in the box but nothing was given.
Dumbarton came within a whisker of drawing level on 63 minutes when Christian Nade bulleted in a header that cannoned down off the crossbar before bouncing off the line and clear. Five minutes later, Stewart took advantage of a misjudgement in the Livi defence but fired wide. Livi made their second change on 70 minutes as Keaghan Jacobs replaced Longridge before Mullin was played in down the right and his low cross found Mackin but his back heel was well saved by Gallacher.
The visitors drew level on 76 minutes and it was hard to argue that they deserved it for their efforts in the second half. There was more than a hint of good fortune about the goal, though, as Walsh fired in a low strike that took a wicked deflection to wrongfoot Alexander and trundle into the net.
Livi fans could be forgiven for thinking that history was set to repeat itself after watching leads surrendered to Dumbarton all too often in the past but this year’s side is made of much stronger stuff and soon set about trying to regain their lead. Their final change saw Jack McMillan replace Mullin before Halkett was booked for a foul on Nade.
The Lions found their winning goal five minutes from time as a free kick was headed back over the Dumbarton defence and Halkett was on hand to nod past Gallacher from close range.
Despite late pressure from the visitors, the Lions held out for a fourth win in five games to move within three points of the Championship summit.
Full-time: Livingston 2-1 Dumbarton
Livingston: Alexander, Longridge (Jacobs 70), Lithgow, Byrne, Mullin (McMillan 79), Pittman, Todorov, Mullen, Cadden (Mackin 35), Penrice, Halkett
Subs not used: Knox, Carrick, Henderson, Pettigrew
Goals: Lithgow (19), Halkett (85)
Dumbarton: Gallacher, McLaughlin, Dowie, Stewart (Morrison 72), Walsh, Wardrop, Hutton, Hill (Wilson 79), Froxylias, Nade (Roy 89), Barr
Subs not used: Ewings, Smith, Gallagher, Johnston
Goals: Walsh (76)
Referee: Mat Northcroft
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine