Livi saw a half-time lead overturned as St Mirren claimed the first-ever home win in this fixture and denied the Lions top spot in the Ladbrokes Championship.
Dale Carrick’s first-half strike had David Hopkin’s side on course to lead the second tier for the first time since October 2008 but strikes from Lewis Morgan, Adam Eckersley and an Ian McShane penalty gave Jack Ross’ side the points and sent them to the summit instead, two points ahead of Dundee United.
For the middle of three games in seven days, the Livi boss made three changes from the weekend win at Queen of the South as Jackson Longridge, Nicky Cadden and Dale Carrick came into the side in place of James Penrice, Raffa De Vita and top scorer Dylan Mackin.
It was Livi who had the first chance on six minutes when Cadden flighted a corner to the edge of the box and it was met by Alan Lithgow, who saw his first-time effort on the volley deflected wide for another corner which came to nothing.
The Lions came close again seven minutes later when a long ball from Declan Gallagher dropped between the two Saints centre backs and was met by Carrick but his downward header bounced up into the arms of Craig Samson before the home side broke quickly and Stephen McGinn’s cross was headed just wide by Kyle Magennis.
That chance sparked a spell of pressure from the Buddies and Gavin Reilly tried his luck from the edge of the box but his curling effort was comfortably held by Neil Alexander before the Livi stopper was equal to an effort from similar range by Cammy Smith, parrying his shot wide for a corner that the Lions defence dealt with comfortably.
Smith sent a header harmlessly wide on 21 minutes before he finally had the ball in the net two minutes later, heading home from McGinn’s corner but his effort was ruled out for a foul on Alexander.
Livi broke quickly after that let-off and Cadden was played in down the left and fired in a low effort which was diverted wide by Samson before the home side were able to clear. Lewis Morgan then drove at the Livi defence but dragged his effort harmlessly wide from the edge of the box.
Having weathered that storm, the Lions stunned their hosts as they broke the deadlock on 31 minutes. Keaghan Jacobs’ free kick was flighted to the back post and Gallagher headed the ball across the box for Mullin whose first-time effort was parried by Samson but Carrick was on hand to fire home the rebound from close range.
Livi’s Shaun Byrne picked up the first yellow card on 36 minutes when he was adjudged to have kicked the ball away, with McGinn lucky to escape censure for throwing a strop at referee Gavin Duncan. Reilly then did well to wriggle away from Halkett but his curling effort was straight at Alexander before McGinn’s long-range effort was similarly comfortable for the Lions keeper.
There was a remarkable escape for the Lions three minutes from the break as Eckersley’s cross looped over Alexander and cannoned back off the post and bounced off a couple of players before Lithgow was finally able to clear for a corner. After the corner was cleared, the ball was returned to Morgan but he shanked his effort well wide as the Lions went in at the break with their lead intact.
Half-time: St Mirren 0-1 Livingston
Livi made a bright start to the second half and came close to doubling their lead when a terrific cross from Longridge was fractionally too far in front of Carrick before a driving run from Mullin ended with him firing in a low shot that Samson saved comfortably.
The Lions were left to rue those missed opportunities as the home side drew level on 51 minutes when a corner was taken short to Morgan and he fired in a powerful low drive that squirmed under Alexander and into the far corner of the net. Livi reacted well to the loss of the goal and Mullin tried his luck with another low drive which Samson was eventually able to gather.
St Mirren were doing most of the pressing and fine link-up play down the left ended with McShane curling an effort high and wide from just inside the box before Livi made a double substitution on the hour mark, Mullin and Carrick replaced by Nikolay Todorov and De Vita. Todorov was quickly into the action, though not in the way the Livi boss had hoped as he went straight into the referee’s book for catching a Saints defender with a stray arm when challenging for a high ball.
Livi had a sight of goal on 62 minutes when Scott Pittman was played in and he got to the byline but his cutback towards Cadden was well intercepted. The home side made the most of that as they moved into the lead on 67 minutes with a hugely fortuitous goal.
Eckersley broke into the box and slipped the ball past Alexander, with Gallagher’s attempted clearance off the line cannoning off a teammate and then the post before finding its way into the net. Rather than celebrate, Saints boss Jack Ross reacted to the goal in embarrassing fashion, charging into the Livi technical area with his finger to his lips, much to David Hopkin’s bewilderment.
Now chasing the game, Livi’s final change arrived three minutes later as Mackin came on for Cadden but it was the home side who continued to press forward, Reilly latching on to a quick free kick from McShane before firing wide of the near post. Livi did have a sight of goal a minute later as Lithgow’s long throw was flicked on by Gallagher for Mackin who saw his header deflected wide for a corner. The corner cleared before Todorov headed De Vita’s return cross straight at Samson.
Any hope Livi had of getting back into the game was extinguished 13 minutes from time as the home side were awarded a penalty when ref Gavin Duncan spotted an infringement at a corner, though he later told the Livi boss that he didn’t see who had actually committed it. McShane sent Alexander the wrong way from the spot to put the game to bed.
Now comfortable, St Mirren made their first change on 79 minutes as Cammy Smith was replaced by Gregor Buchanan before Livi forced a half-chance when Lithgow’s long throw was flicked on for Todorov but his looping header was comfortably gathered by Samson. De Vita became the second Livi sub to go into the book on 84 minutes for a rash challenge on the far touchline.
Two final changes for St Mirren followed in quick succession, Magennis and Reilly replaced by John Sutton and Stelios Demetriou as the Buddies saw out the final moments with ease to claim the three points and move top of the Championship.
Full-time: St Mirren 3-1 Livingston
St Mirren: Samson, McGinn, Magennis (Demetriou 88), Morgan, C Smith (Buchanan 78), Baird, McShane, Reilly (Sutton 89), Davis, L Smith, Eckersley
Subs not used: Stewart (GK), Duffy, Kirkpatrick, McCart
Goals: Morgan (51), Eckersley (66), McShane (78 pen)
Livingston: Alexander, Lithgow, Halkett, Gallagher, Byrne, Pittman, Longridge, Jacobs, Mullin (De Vita 60), Cadden (Mackin 70), Carrick (Todorov 60)
Subs not used: Maley (GK), Penrice, Knox, Henderson
Goals: Carrick (30)
Referee: Gavin Duncan
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine