Livi were left to rue missed opportunities as Hibernian struck twice in four minutes to claim their first win over the Lions this season at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
Paul Hanlon fired Paul Heckingbottom’s side ahead 19 minutes from time before Stevie Mallan looked to have sealed the points soon after, although Ryan Hardie’s injury time penalty set up a grandstand finish.
The Lions were dealt a huge blow before kick off as captain Craig Halkett was ruled out with an injury. Hakeem Odoffin took his place in the only change from the 1-1 draw at Pittodrie two weeks earlier.
The visitors came close to breaking the deadlock inside two minutes when the ball fell to Mallan and he burst into the box and fired in a powerful effort that was well tipped over by Liam Kelly. Up the other end, Steve Lawson did brilliantly to recover what looked a lost cause and win a corner. Keaghan Jacobs took it and it fell for stand-in skipper Alan Lithgow but he could only fire over the bar from eight yards.
The Lions went close again on eight minutes when Chris Erskine did well to keep possession and crossed for Craig Sibbald – he evaded Darren McGregor’s challenge but his effort, again, went over. Florian Kamberi then had a half-chance on the right hand side on 15 minutes but scuffed his effort well wide.
Livi were controlling the game fairly well but struggled to test Ofir Marciano. Keaghan Jacobs saw a long range free kick blocked by the wall on 35 minutes and when the ball broke to Lawson he could only shoot high over the bar from 25 yards as the teams went in at the break level.
Half-time: Livingston 0-0 Hibernian
The Lions made a bright start to the second half and went close on 47 minutes when Odoffin got on the end of Jacobs’ free kick but sent his header over. Lawson then made a fine burst forward from midfield but saw his low cross blocked before the Hibs defence was able to clear.
Both sides made a double change on 68 minutes with Hibs sending on Vykintas Slivka and Fraser Murray for Stephane Omeonga and Daryl Horgan. One of Livi’s changes was enforced, Ricki Lamie replacing Ciaron Brown, who had picked up a knee injury, while Ryan Hardie replaced Erskine.
The visitors were quicker to get back into their stride after shuffling their pack and broke the deadlock three minutes later when Mallan’s corner dropped to Hanlon eight yards out and he showed good reactions to fire a first time effort high past Kelly into the roof of the net. Livi then made their final change two minutes later as Shaun Byrne came on for Odoffin.
The Lions saw a golden chance go to waste on 74 minutes when a long ball over the top was headed down by Hardie into the path of Scott Robinson but he fizzed a half-volley inches wide of Marciano’s left-hand post. Had he aimed for the right, he may well have seen the net bulge. Livi would soon regret that missed chance as the visitors doubled their advantage barely a minute later when a ball over the top found Mallan and he showed great skill to get away from Lithgow before slipping a low finish through Kelly’s legs.
The home side continued to push forward in search of a way back into the match and went close on 77 minutes when Sibbald got on the end of a fine cross from Declan Gallagher but saw his header brilliantly tipped over by Marciano. Lamie then got on the end of the resulting corner but saw his header fly over the bar.
Hardie came within a whisker of pulling one back on 87 minutes when he latched on Jacobs’ pass down the left and cut inside before curling in a superb strike that flew inches wide of the post. Robinson then tried his luck with an overhead kick two minutes later but his effort bounced wide.
The Lions were not to be denied, though, and did pull one back in the first minute of stoppage time when Lawson was bundled over in the box by Lewis Stevenson, allowing Hardie the chance to send Marciano the wrong way from 12 yards and set up a pulsating finish. Livi piled on the pressure in the dying moments but the Hibs defence held firm to condemn the Lions to a first defeat in three games.
Full-time: Livingston 1-2 Hibernian
Livingston: Kelly, Brown (Lamie 68), Lithgow, Odoffin (Byrne 74), Gallagher, Lawson, Pittman, Sibbald, Jacobs, Robinson, Erskine (Hardie 68)
Subs not used: Stewart, De Vita, Wylde, Lawless
Goals: Hardie (90 pen)
Hibernian: Marciano, Gray, McGregor, Hanlon, Stevenson, Miligan, Mallan, Omeonga (Slivka 68), Horgan (Murray 69), McNulty (Shaw 90), Kamberi
Subs not used: Dabrowski, Bartley, Mackie, Allan
Goals: Hanlon (71), Mallan (75)
Referee: Nick Walsh
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine