Livi bowed of the William Hill Scottish Cup as an early second-half goal proved the difference in a largely forgettable fourth round tie at Tynecastle Park.
Sean Clare struck three minutes after the restart was enough to separate the two sides as Craig Levein’s side advanced to a clash with Auchinleck Talbot in the last-16 as the Lions fell at the fourth round stage for the fourth year in a row.
Gary Holt handed new signing Gregg Wylde his debut as he and Keaghan Jacobs came in for Craig Sibbald and Lee Miller in the only two changes from the defeat to Aberdeen before the winter break but it was the hosts who threatened first, David Vanecek sending a header harmlessly wide on four minutes.
After three weeks without competitive action, it was little surprise that both sides were slow to get going in the early stages and it took until the 17th minute for the Lions to threaten when Declan Gallagher sent a superb ball over the top for Ryan Hardie but it just skipped away from the Livi frontman and into the arms of Jambos keeper Colin Doyle.
Livi enjoyed a good spell after that and went close again on 20 minutes when Wylde’s knockdown was miskicked by Dolly Menga but fell kindly for Stevie Lawless who fired over from the edge of the box. Menga then came within a whisker of getting on the end of Alan Lithgow’s low cross at the far post two minutes later.
That near miss seemed to jolt Hearts into life and Clare tried his luck from the edge of the box on 28 minutes but saw his effort fly high and wide. Steven Naismith was then fortunate to escape a caution for a cynical, and failed, attempt to bring down Menga who managed to continue his run before seeing his shot deflected wide. Hardie headed the resulting corner wide.
Shaun Byrne was shown a yellow card for a remarkably similar foul to that which Naismith avoided punishment for, the only difference being that advantage was not played on this occasion. Wylde then fired in a low effort a minute later but didn’t trouble Doyle.
The home side finished the half strongly and Olly Lee saw a curling effort well held by Liam Kelly on 41 minutes before Naismith had the ball in the net two minutes only to be flagged offside. Naismith then saw a shot blocked in injury time then got in the way of Michael Smith’s follow-up as the teams went in level at the break.
Half-time: Heart of Midlothian 0-0 Livingston
After an even first half, the Lions would have hoped to step up a gear after the restart but instead they got off to the worst possible start as the hosts broke the deadlock inside two minutes when Vanecek laid the ball off for Clare to fire a fine, first-time curling effort past the despairing dive of Kelly.
Hearts almost put the game to bed five minutes later when Kelly fumbled a high cross into the path of Callumn Morrison and his low shot beat the Livi keeper but Craig Halkett was on hand to clear off the line. Up the other end, a trademark Lithgow long throw caused some problems for the home defence and forced a corner that was comfortably cleared.
The Lions had responded well to Hearts’ storming start to the second half and came close on 58 minutes when Halkett led a counter attack before releasing Pittman. He in turn slipped in Hardie but he could only fire his fierce low drive straight at Doyle. Byrne then got on the end of Lawless’ cross a minute later but his header was straight at the keeper despite Hardie’s best efforts to get a telling touch.
Wylde has a chance to mark his debut with a goal on the hour as he showed quick feet to find space at the edge of the box but ballooned his effort high over the bar. That proved to be his last involvement as he made his way off moments later to be replaced by Ricki Lamie, who made his first appearance since early December following injury.
Hearts were still probing for a killer second goal and Morrison came close with a low drive straight at Kelly after being set up by Olly Lee. Up the other end a fine flick from Menga sent Pittman running clear but Berra got back well to clear. The resulting corner found its way to Hardie but his shot was tame and Doyle saved comfortably.
The Lions made a second change on 71 minutes as Chris Erskine came on for his debut in place of Hardie. They were then forced into a final change four minutes later as Menga limped off with a hamstring injury to be replaced by Jack Hamilton.
Livi came within inches of an equaliser 12 minutes from time when Lawless’ corner was cleared back to him and he drove across the edge of the box before firing in a low drive that trundled agonisingly wide of the near post. The home side then made their first change moments later as Oliver Bozanic came on for goalscorer Clare.
The Lions pressed hard in the closing stages but were unable to find a way through the robust Hearts defence as the home side secured their place in the last-16.
Full-time: Heart of Midlothian 1-0 Livingston
Heart of Midlothian: Doyle, Smith, Shaughnessy, Berra, Garuccio, Morrison (Mulraney 86), Lee, Djoum, Naismith, Clare (Bozanic 80), Vanecek
Subs not used: Zlamal, Mitchell, MacLean, Dikamona, Keena
Goals: Clare (48)
Livingston: Kelly, Gallagher, Halkett, Lithgow, Lawless, Wylde (Lamie 60), Pittman, Byrne, Jacobs, Menga (Hamilton 75), Hardie (Erskine 71)
Subs not used: Stewart, Sibbald, Lawson, Cadden
Referee: Willie Collum
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine