Livingston climbed back into the top-six with a hard-earned 2-1 home win over Ross County highlighted by two goals in as many minutes just before the half-time whistle.
A contest that had been forgettable burst into life when Joel Nouble rose above his defender to nod a James Penrice cross into the net – with Nicky Devlin blasting a second moments later from the edge of the box.
Livi looked to be in firm control of the game but they rarely make things easy for themselves. Simon Murray turned the ball home on 69 minutes from close range to drag County back into things but the Lions would hold firm.
Livingston boss David Martindale made just one change to the side that drew with Dundee United last time out as Penrice replaced the injured Steven Bradley on the right flank. That meant Nouble passed a late fitness test following illness.
Both sides tried to play football from the off but chances were few and far between. Bruce Anderson could only fire straight at Ross Laidlaw from the edge of the box while the Lions were unable to turn a string of attacking throws and a corner into a genuine effort on goal.
At the other end, Gwion Edwards did well to cut inside beyond Montano but Eamonn Brophy sclaffed the cutback tamely over the bar before dragging a 20-yard strike comfortably wide moments later following a quick counter-attack from the visitors.
The visitors enjoyed a period on top of proceedings and went close to taking the lead on the half hour mark as Keith Watson looked to turn home a Jordan White flick-on at the back post. The veteran defender could only find the side-netting.
With the game falling flat, it suddenly burst into life before the break with the Lions bagging two goals in as many minutes. The first a sublime header back across goal from Nouble following an inch-perfect cross from the right flank by Penrice. The crowd barely had time to settle before Devlin smashed home Livi’s second with an unstoppable angled drive having seen his initial effort parried by Laidlaw.
And the skipper almost made it a double just two minutes into the second-half after Penrice’s neat pass found Jason Holt who in turn teed up the full-back but his fizzing strike was chested behind by the Staggies keeper.
Malky MacKay introduced both Simon Murray and Ross Callachan just before the hour mark in a bid to get back into the contest – which they duly did on 69 minutes in fortuitous circumstances
Callachan’s ball down sent Brophy clear down the left flank with his delivery across the face of goal being bundled home by Murray with a deflection off Montano. The assistant’s flag went up for offside but a lengthy VAR check led to referee Willie Collum pointing to the centre-circle.
That led to a somewhat frenetic final 20 minutes with both sides charging forward at every opportunity. Devlin almost produced a moment of magic when he charged through three defenders only to be denied by Laidlaw while the away side ended the contest playing four strikers.
Penrice produced a last-ditch block as the game ticked into the final five minutes after Brophy cut inside and looked set to net the equaliser as they held out for a crucial three points.
Match Report: Callum Carson (Daily Record)
Livingston: George ▊, Devlin ©️, de Lucas, Boyes, Montaño (St.Kelly 83), Holt ▊ (Omeonga 79), Shinnie, Pittman (Guthrie 90), Penrice, Nouble, Anderson (Bahamboula 79 ▊)
Subs not used: Hamilton, Brandon, Stenhouse
Goals: Nouble (37), Devlin (38)
Ross County: Laidlaw, Randall, Watson ©️ (Smith 64), Iacovitti ▊, Edwards (Murray 57), Loturi (Samuel 78), Kenneh (Cancola 64), Harmon, Sims (Callachan 57), White, Brophy
Subs not used: Samuel, Munro, Stones
Goals: Murray (69)
Referee: Willie Collum