The Lions roared back to winning ways as Chris Erskine’s first goal for the club secured all three points against Kilmarnock at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
The former Partick Thistle man fired home just before half-time the end Livi’s nine-match run without a victory and moved them to within four points of the top six with six matches remaining until the split.
Gary Holt made four changes to his side from the controversial defeat to Dundee with Stevie Lawless, Steve Lawson, Craig Sibbald and Erskine coming into the starting line-up. Ryan Hardie, Scott Robinson and Hakeem Odoffin dropped to the bench while Shaun Byrne served the first of his two-match suspension.
The visitors were clearly intent on making up for their 5-0 Scottish Cup defeat at Ibrox on Wednesday night and started brightly, Kris Boyd finding Eamonn Brophy in the Livi box inside two minutes but his effort from a tight angle hit the side netting. Ross Millen then tried to release Brophy but his pass was overhit and Liam Kelly gathered comfortably.
That early threat jolted Livi into life and Declan Gallagher released Erskine down the right on seven minutes and his attempted cut back for Scott Pittman was deflected into Daniel Bachmann’s arms. The Lions then won a corner moments later from which Craig Halkett teed up Lawless for a first-time effort that flew just wide.
Killie came close to breaking the deadlock on 15 minutes when Calum Waters was released down the left and his cross was met by Boyd who saw his header clip the crossbar on its way over. Livi then almost claimed a fortuitous opener two minutes later when Lawless got to the byline and his low cross was turned goalwards by a Killie defender but Bachmann showed great reactions to keep it out.
Livi suffered a blow on 26 minutes as Ricki Lamie was forced off with a knee injury, Ciaran Brown coming on in his place for his Lions debut. Livi were unfazed by the switch and enjoyed a good spell of pressure, albeit without testing Bachmann and indeed it was the visitors who were next to threaten on 38 minutes when Rory McKenzie let fly from 25 yards but Kelly did well to parry his effort away before the Lions defence eventually cleared.
Livi went straight up the other end and, from Keaghan Jacobs’ free kick, Halkett teed up Lawless once again but this time his effort flew well over. Brown then released Erskine down the right four minutes later and he squared for Pittman but he perhaps took one too many touches and his effort was blocked.
It all turned out nicely for the Lions in the end, though, as Alan Lithgow’s resulting throw-in was glanced on by Gallagher and Lawless nodded the ball down for Erskine to produce a fine finish on the turn to fire Livi into a deserved half-time lead.
Half-time: Livingston 1-0 Kilmarnock
Killie came within a whisker of an equaliser within four minutes of the restart when Brophy did well to find space at the edge of the area before firing in a terrific effort that cracked against the crossbar and over for a goal kick.
Livi then countered from a Killie corner two minutes later and Sibbald’s cross was knocked down by Pittman but Youssouf Mulumbu just beat Lawson to the loose ball. Pittman then got in behind soon after but got too much on his attempted chip over Bachmann and his effort cleared the bar.
The Lions were enjoying a great spell and Brown’s 54th-minute cross was cleared only as far as Lawson who saw his well-struck effort brilliantly held by Bachmann. Lawson then forced an error in the Killie midfield and Lawless played the ball over the top for Erskine but he couldn’t get the ball out of his feet and the Killie defence was able to clear.
After a couple of long throws were dealt with by the visitors, another superb cross from Brown on 66 minutes was fumbled by Bachmann before Sibbald’s effort was blocked. Erskine then found himself in behind and squared for Pittman but Boyd produced a fine block to deny him a tap-in.
Livi made their second change on 67 minutes, Scott Robinson coming on for the excellent Sibbald, before Killie’s first saw Chris Burke replace Boyd moments later.
There was a huge let-off for the Lions on 72 minutes when Brophy’s free kick was pushed away by Kelly and McKenzie seemed certain to score but could only fire the rebound against the underside of the bar from close range. Brophy then had a go from long range two minutes but his effort sailed high over the bar before Stephen O’Donnell replaced Millen for the visitors.
Jordan Jones had been a peripheral figure in the game but saw an effort blocked by Brown 14 minutes from time before Livi made their final change a minute later, goalscorer Erskine going off to be replaced by Scott Tiffoney. Liam Millar replaced Waters for the visitors four minutes later.
There was almost an immediate impact from the Livi sub as Lawless released Tiffoney on 88 minutes and he showed great skill to lift the ball over Findlay before firing in a volley that was brilliantly blocked by Boyd. Kelly then picked up a yellow card a minute later for taking his time over a goal kick as Livi saw out added time comfortably to secure their first win in 10 matches and move 16 points ahead of the teams below them.
Full-time: Livingston 1-0 Kilmarnock
Livingston: Kelly, Gallagher, Halkett, Lithgow, Lamie (Brown 27), Lawson, Pittman, Sibbald (Robinson 68), Jacobs, Lawless, Erskine (Tiffoney 78)
Subs Not Used: Stewart, Wylde, Odoffin, Hardie
Goals: Erskine (44)
Kilmarnock: Bachmann, McKenzie, Boyd, Jones, Boyd (Burke 69), Findlay, Waters (Millar 82), Millen (O’Donnell 75), Mulumbu, Brophy, Tshibola
Subs Not Used: McDonald, Dicker, Ndjoli, Millar, Frizzell
Referee: Andrew Dallas
Match report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine