Livi suffered more late heartache as an 88th-minute equaliser forced them to settle for a share of the spoils against beleaguered Hearts at Tynecastle Park.
After Marvin Bartley’s first goal in over five After Marvin Bartley’s first League goal in almost six years had given the Lions a half-time lead, it looked as though they would end their two-month wait for a Premiership win until Steven MacLean took advantage of loose defending at a corner to fire home from close range.
Gary Holt made two changes from the goalless draw with Hamilton four days earlier as Scott Robinson and Craig Sibbald came in for Robbie Crawford and Steve Lawson. Captain Alan Lithgow returned to the bench after missing the last three games following appendix surgery.
Hearts were quickly on the attack and went close inside the first minute as a looping cross was headed on by Sean Clare into the path of Jamie Walker but his volley was comfortably saved by Matija Sarkic. Loic Damour then tried his luck with a volley from the edge of the box but his effort flew high and wide.
Livi threatened for the first time on five minutes as Lyndon Dykes got in behind the home defence but Zdenek Zlamal was out smartly to smother the loose ball. Hearts then went up the other end and Jake Mulraney’s deep cross was headed back across goal by Craig Halkett but the ball drifted out of play before Stevie Naismith could reach it.
Naismith was then played in down the left on 10 minutes and saw his fierce effort beaten away by Sarkic before Bartley cleared for a corner. Halkett will be wondering how he didn’t score from the resulting corner as it found him in acres of space inside the six yard box but he somehow managed to head it wide when it was easier to score.
Hearts were on top now and Mulraney played in Walker on 14 minutes but good pressure from the Livi defence forced him into an early shot that Sarkic was able to save easily. Livi then forced a couple of corners but did nothing with them, allowing Hearts to counter before Clare was flagged offside. The home side were then forced into a change on 26 minutes as Naismith limped off to be replaced by MacLean.
Having weathered the storm, the Lions stunned Tynecastle by breaking the deadlock on 33 minutes when Dykes’ long throw was headed on into the path of Bartley and he produced a stunning volley to slam the ball past Zlamal from close range. It was Bartley’s first League goal since he netted for Leyton Orient in a 2-1 win at Gillingham on Boxing Day 2013 and I doubt the former Hibs man could have picked a better opponent to end his drought against.
Livi were visibly lifted by their opener and enjoyed more of the play in the remainder of the half, although they were fortunate to keep their lead into the break as Sibbald and Scott Pittman collided as they attempted to clear and the ball fell to Damour but he fired well wide from the edge of the box.
Half-time: Heart of Midlothian 0-1 Livingston
Livi were forced into a change at the break as Lawson came on for Keaghan Jacobs before Pittman went into the book for a foul on Walker four minutes after the restart.
The Lions went close to doubling their lead on 53 minutes when Stevie Lawless’ free kick was headed back across goal by Dykes for Jon Guthrie but his header flew over the bar. Robinson then picked up a yellow card for a challenge on Christophe Berra before Uche Ikpeazu replaced Damour for the hosts soon after.
Aaron Taylor-Sinclair sent a ball forward for Robinson on 59 minutes but Jamie Brandon did well to crowd him out and Zlamal was able to gather. Clare then had a go from distance three minutes later but his curling effort was straight at Sarkic.
Guthrie picked up the Lions’ third booking of the second half for a foul on Walker on 68 minutes before Glenn Whelan’s resulting free kick was met by Ikpeazu who saw his glancing header saved by Sarkic.
Livi were still posing a threat at the other end and, on 70 minutes, Lawson’s corner was flicked on by Guthrie for Dykes but no one could get on the end of his low ball as it fizzed across the face of goal. Lawless then saw an effort blocked by Berra two minutes later before Zlamal denied Pittman soon after.
Ryo Meshino replaced Walker for the home side on 76 minutes before Whelan fired straight at Sarkic after Taylor-Sinclair’s clearance had fallen into his path. Ikpeazu then volleyed well over the crossbar from the edge of the area shortly after before Chris Erskine replaced Sibbald for Livi moments later.
Meshino thought he had brought his side level four minutes from time when his shot from the edge of the box took a wicked deflection to deceive Sarkic but flew into the side netting. Livi then made their final change a minute later as Hakeem Odoffin replaced Lawless.
Just as it looked the Lions were set for a first win in eight games, the home side drew level two minutes from time when a corner from the left cannoned into the path of MacLean and fired into the net from six yards.
Livi almost regained the lead barely a minute later when a free kick from Lawson was met by Guthrie but he saw his header pushed away by Zlamal. MacLean then fired wide of the near post for the home side in added time as the match ended all square.
Full-time: Heart of Midlothian 1-1 Livingston
Heart of Midlothian: Zlamal, Smith, Halkett, Berra, Hickey, Damour (Ikpeazu 56), Whelan, Walker (Meshino 76), Clare, Mulraney, Naismith (MacLean 26)
Subs not used: Pereira, Wighton, Brandon, Irving
Goals: MacLean (88)
Livingston: Sarkic, Taylor-Sinclair, Sibbald (Erskine 78), Lamie, Guthrie, Bartley, Pittman, Robinson, Lawless (Odoffin 87), Jacobs (Lawson 45), Dykes
Subs not used: Stewart, McMillan, Souda, Lithgow
Goals: Bartley (33)
Referee: Greg Aitken
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photo Gallery: Rae Irvine