A late Livi rally fell short as Kilmarnock held on to take all three points from a largely even encounter at Rugby Park.
Goals from Gary Dicker and a heavily-deflected Rory McKenzie effort had Killie in control and, although Lee Miller’s first top-flight goal since 2014 set up a grandstand finish, the Lions were unable to find an equaliser.
Livi made a bright start and won a corner inside the opening minute but Keaghan Jacobs’ delivery flew across the face of goal and out of play. Mohamed El Makrini then volleyed high over the bar at the other end after Jack McMillan’s clearing header had fallen into his path.
The Lions were putting the home defence under pressure and went close again on seven minutes when Marvin Bartley played in Stevie Lawless and he teed up Robbie Crawford but Diego Del Fabro made a crucial block. McMillan then got to the byline two minutes later but, on his weaker foot, he could only send his cross straight into Laurentiu Branescu’s arms.
Livi were well on top and came close again on 19 minutes when Lawless cut in from the right and curled an effort just wide of the near post. At the other end, Chris Burke tried to catch Matija Sarkic out with a 35-yard free kick but saw his strike sail harmlessly wide.
The Lions forced a great chance on 37 minutes as brilliant build-up play ended with Lawless slipping in Crawford but, when it looked like he had only the keeper to beat, Del Fabro got across well to block his low effort. Killie would punish them for that miss as they took the lead three minutes later when Burke’s mishit free kick glanced off Scott Robinson and fell perfectly for Dicker to fire a fine first-time finish past Sarkic into the far corner.
That sparked something of a siege from Angelo Alessio’s side in the closing stages of the half but the Livi defence was able to hold firm. The Lions then forced a couple of free kicks in added time but were unable to make anything of either as the hosts went in ahead at the break.
Half-time: Kilmarnock 1-0 Livingston
Livi forced an early opening after the restart when Nicky Devlin’s long throw fell to Crawford at the edge of the box but, like El Makrini’s effort in the first half, his volley flew well over the crossbar. Killie then went close when Stuart Findlay stormed forward from centre-half to get on the end of McKenzie’s through-ball but he somewhat scuffed his effort and it trundled harmlessly wide.
The home side would get their second goal on 55 minutes but there was a huge slice of luck about it as Eamonn Brophy’s effort deflected into the path of McKenzie and his first-time strike took an even bigger deflection off of Bartley to wrong-foot Sarkic and find its way into the net.
Livi made a double change three minutes later as Lawless and Robinson went off to be replaced by Lithgow and Miller before Killie sent on Liam Millar for El Makrini shortly after. Alan Power picked up a yellow card on the hour after a foul on Bartley before a Lithgow long throw was cleared to the edge of the box and Jacobs saw his low volley deflected wide.
Miller went into the referee’s book after an aerial clash with Del Fabro on 63 minutes before the Lions made their final change three minutes later as Aymen Souda replaced Crawford. Livi won a free kick on the right hand side on 67 minutes and only a glancing touch from Findlay prevented Lithgow heading Jacobs’ delivery home.
The home side were inviting the Lions on to them and Bartley came close with on 68 minutes when Miller nodded the ball into his path and he fired in a fine half-volley that was brilliantly saved by Branescu. He then went even closer two minutes later when he got on the end of Lithgow’s long throw but saw his header crash back off the bar. He then went into the book six minutes later for a foul on Burke.
Killie came close to a third on 77 minutes when Del Fabro did well to spin away from Lithgow but scuffed his shot straight at Sarkic before and ambitious effort from Burke sailed wildly off target moments later. Del Fabro then picked up a yellow card ten minutes from time after catching Miller before Dykes fired a dipping volley on to the roof of the net from 25 yards.
The Lions got themselves back into the game seven minutes from time when Devlin volleyed the ball across goal and Miller was on hand the turn the ball home with the aid of a deflection for his first top flight goal in over four years – ironically at the same venue as his last, which came for Killie in a 1-0 win over St Mirren.
Killie made their second change with five minutes remaining, Dom Thomas replacing Brophy, before Millar came close to sealing the points in the 89th minute when Millar burst into the box but fired a low effort just wide of the far post. Alex Bruce replaced McKenzie in added time as the home side comfortably saw out the remaining minutes to claim all three points as Livi’s 15-year for a Rugby Park victory goes on.
Full-time: Kilmarnock 2-1 Livingston
Kilmarnock: Branescu, O’Donnell, Del Fabro, Findlay, Hamalainen, Power, Dicker, El Makrini (Millar 59), Burke, Brophy (Thomas 84), McKenzie (Bruce 90)
Subs not used: Johnson, Jackson, St Clair, Koprivec
Goals: Dicker (39), McKenzie (55)
Livingston: Sarkic, Devlin, Lamie, Guthrie, McMillan, Bartley, Lawless (Lithgow 58), Jacobs, Crawford (Souda 66), Robinson (Miller 59), Dykes
Subs not used: Stewart, Sibbald, Odofin, Lawson
Goals: Miller (84)
Referee: Steven McLean
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine