A wonder goal from Martin Boyle condemned Livi to a disappointing defeat as they suffered a fourth 2-1 defeat in their last four visits to Easter Road and stayed two points from safety in the Ladbrokes Championship.
Livi boss David Hopkin made two changes from the dire home draw with Alloa as Jackson Longridge returned from suspension to replace Morgyn Neill and Osman Kakay came in for the ineligible Sam Stanton.
Hibs came into the match on a five-match run without a win that had killed any chances of winning the title and left them in third place, eight points adrift of second place Falkirk, albeit with three games in hand. This meant their need was every bit as great as Livi’s and they forced the first chance inside two minutes as Lewis Stevenson jinked into space and fired a low shot across goal but Marc McCallum dived sharply to his right to tip his effort wide.
Livi’s first spell of pressure saw a long throw bobble around in the box but neither Kakay nor Liam Buchanan were able to get a shot away. The Lions then won a free kick a minute later when Scott Pittman was fouled but Charlie Telfer could only drill his effort straight at the wall and Hibs were able to clear. From that clearance, Hibs broke quickly and Jason Cummings skipped past Longridge but could only shoot over the bar from the edge of the box.
Hibs were enjoying a good spell and Cummings did well to win his side a corner on 13 minutes from which Darren McGregor’s header was well saved by McCallum. Jordan White then picked up the game’s first yellow card for a cynical foul that stopped David Gray breaking down the right. From Liam Henderson’s resulting free kick Livi were hugely fortunate when Gray and Farid El Alagui got in each other’s way, allowing the defence to clear.
Great pressure from Buchanan forced a corner on 17 minutes but Mark Fotheringham’s cross was inches too high for Ben Gordon as he rose to meet it. Hibs broke up the other end with McGregor sending Stevenson free down the left and his far post cross found Gray who headed over the bar. Alan Stubbs’ side were left to rue those missed chances as Livi took a shock lead on 22 minutes. Longridge did brilliantly down the left and crossed in for Kakay. His shot was blocked only as far as Jordan White who took a touch and looped a beautiful volley over Oxley and into the net.
Hibs’ mettle was sure to be tested now and they responded well to falling behind as Gray fired an effort just wide on 27 minutes. A minute later El Alagui teed up Cummings on the edge of the box but his drive was straight at McCallum. Fotheringham was then lucky to escape a yellow card for a fierce, albeit ball-winning, tackle on Gray. Craig Halkett was then well-placed to stop El Alagui going clean through on 33 minutes before White did well to win a goal kick from the resulting corner.
It was all Hibs by now and Henderson laid a free kick off to Stokes but McCallum was equal to his effort and pulled off a fine save. The home side were forced into a change on 38 minutes as El Alagui, on his first start after several months out, was forced off with another injury to be replaced by James Keatings. The home fans were growing frustrated by their side’s inability to break Livi down and made their feelings clear when an aimless long ball rolled harmlessly out for a goal kick.
Hibs had a shout for a penalty in the final minute of the half as the ball appeared to strike Longridge on the arm but referee Barry Cook was unmoved by the protests and waved play on, allowing Livi to see their way through to half-time with their lead intact.
Half-time: Hibernian 0-1 Livingston
Hibs roared out of the traps in the second half and came close when Stevenson crossed for Stokes but Gordon was in the right place to clear the Irishman’s volleyed effort off the line. Henderson then tried his luck with a free kick which McCallum did well to palm behind.
Livi had a couple of brief forays forward in the early minutes of the half but Kakay was easily dispossessed by Paul Hanlon before White latched on to a long ball from McCallum but couldn’t get the better of McGregor. Buchanan then tried his luck with a long-range volley on 56 minutes but his effort was way off target.
Hibs appealed for a penalty on the hour mark when Cummings went down after a shoulder to shoulder with Darren Cole but referee Cook was suitably unimpressed with his claims. Cole was booked shortly after though for a foul on Keatings. The ex-Hearts striker took the free kick himself but fired it high into the Famous Five Stand.
Hibs made the substitution that would prove crucial on 67 minutes as Boyle took the place of the ineffective Kevin Thomson. Two minutes later Gray crossed in for Keatings but his header went over the bar. There was a huge let-off for Livi on 71 minutes when Boyle cut the ball back for Stokes to flick an effort that somehow trundled across goal and wide. Cole then produced a heroic block to deny Keatings when he looked certain to score.
Livi’s goal had been leading a charmed life but their luck eventually ran out on 74 minutes when Stokes turned smartly and fired in a low effort from the edge of the box that McCallum just couldn’t get down to in time. Livi boss Hopkin responded by sending on Jordyn Sheerin for the exhausted Buchanan but, before the change could have any effect, Hibs completed their turnaround in spectacular fashion. A cross from the left was cleared as far as Boyle and he unleashed a quite exquisite volley from 35 yards out that rocketed past McCallum’s despairing dive.
The Livi boss made his second change as Ryan Currie replaced Kakay but it did little to stem the tide as Hibs, with their tails firmly up, continued to dominate and Cummings raced away from Cole and fired in a low shot which McCallum saved well before Gordon cleared the danger. Stokes then missed what looked an easy chance to make it 3-1 when he rose unchallenged to meet Henderson’s corner but somehow headed it wide.
A final Livi change saw Matthew Knox replace Telfer before Hibs ran down the clock with a change of their own as Niklas Gunnarsson replaced Cummings. The final chance fell Livi’s way as Halkett’s header was comfortably gathered by Oxley to ensure that Hibs got back to winning ways while Livi’s fight to avoid the playoff got that little bit harder. Fotheringham picked up a yellow card after the final whistle for dissent though the source of his grievance was unclear, other than the disappointment that a hard-working performance had failed to yield a reward.
Full-time: Hibernian 2-1 Livingston
Hibernian: Oxley, Gray, McGregor, Hanlon, Stevenson, Thomson (Boyle 68), McGinn, Henderson, Stokes, Cummings (Gunnarsson 90), El Alagui (Keatings 39)
Subs not used: Virtanen, Fyvie, Handling, Dagnall
Goals: Stokes (75), Boyle (78)
Livingston: McCallum, Halkett, Cole, Gordon, Longridge, Kakay (Currie 80), Telfer (Knox 88), Fotheringham, Pittman, White, Buchanan (Sheerin 78)
Subs not used: Jamieson, Neill, Mullin
Goals: White (22)
Referee: Barry Cook
Match Report: Andy Crawford