Livingston closed the gap on third-placed Motherwell to seven points with a thoroughly deserved win over a lacklustre Fir Park side.
It took a goal from former ‘Well man Aaron Taylor-Sinclair midway through the second half to separate the sides.
In truth, though, only some terrific goalkeeping from Mark Gillespie, prevented the West Lothian side from recording a much more comfortable win.
With James Scott departed for Hull City, Stephen Robinson made three changes to the side for this third versus fifth clash at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
Fit again Jermaine Hylton and Christopher Long were paired in attack while Richard Tait took Liam Grimshaw’s place at the back.
Only ten points separated the sides before kick-off and, on the back of five consecutive home wins, the West Lothian side were looking to reduce the leeway.
And the Lions will be wondering how all three points were not tied up before half-time as they completely dominated the first 45 against a labouring ‘Well.
Livingston’s leading scorer Lyndon Dykes posted his intent within seven minutes with a low drive which Mark Gillespie pushed away, Declan Gallagher clearing before Dykes could latch on to the loose ball.
‘Well replied immediately with what turned out their only threat of the half. Hylton won a tussle with former ‘Well man Steven Lawless before slipping the ball behind Ciaron Brown. But with Long chasing in Robby McCrorie came racing out of his box to clear the danger.
After that all the play was towards the visitor’s goal where Gillespie produced a handful of saves to keep the scores level.
The first of those came after 13 minutes when a deep cross was headed back by Jon Guthrie to set up Dykes but his net bound volley was brilliantly saved by Gillespie.
A minute later Livingston should have been ahead. Craig Sibbald nicked the ball off Liam Donnelly to set up the overlapping Scott Pittman. But from a great position he allowed Gillespie to block his low drive.
In their all-white strip the Fir Park side looked decidedly off colour, too often caught in possession and hopeful with long passes intended for Christian Ilic and Long.
Meantime the ‘Well ‘keeper was alert to a couple of low crosses as Livi seemed certain to make the breakthrough.
Just after the half hour Gillespie leapt fully to his right to comfortably catch Pittman’s long range drive.
However, before the break Gillespie produced a stunning reflex save to punch away Scott Robinson’s snapshot from just beyond the six-yard box.
Not surprisingly the ‘Well boss made two changes at the interval. Bevis Mugabi replaced Ilic to form a central back three and Christy Mazinga was given the chance to support Long up front.
It had an effect within the first couple of minutes when Long’s drive across goal caused a rare bit of anxiety in the home defence before the ball was booted clear.
Ten minutes into the half Marvin Bartley’s hefty challenged on Donnelly raised tempers on and off the field. With the home fans still airing their anger Liam Polworth’s long free kick found Gallagher and his downward header forced McCrorie into his first save of the game.
In a well-rehearsed free kick Sibbald slid the ball across the box to Dykes but Hartley bravely stepped in to block the striker.
When Bartley was sent through it took another brave stop, this time from Gillespie to deny the Livi midfielder.
After 66 minutes ‘Well made their third substitution, Mark O’Hara replacing Polworth. But he could only watch as Livingston finally made the breakthrough.
A long throw into the box bounced to the far post where former ‘Well player Aaron Taylor-Sinclair headed it powerfully towards goal.
The helpless Gillespie was a touch unlucky only to palm the ball onto the underside of his crossbar and into the net.
It could have been all over four minutes later but for Gillespie’s double save. Firstly the ‘Well stopper parried Pittman’s low header before racing across his goal to beat the ball away as Dykes waited to force the ball over the line.
With 15 minutes remaining and nothing to lose, Mugabi was moved forward to add his considerable height and presence to the attack.
It made little difference to the pattern of the game.
Remarkably in added-on time, the Steelmen almost snatched a late equaliser. With everyone pressing forward, Hartley forced his volley into the ground, requiring McCrorie to produce a great save to claw the ball away from inside his post and deny ‘Well a point.
Motherwell: Gillespie, Tait, Gallagher, Hartley, Carroll, Donnelly, Campbell, Polworth (O’Hara), Ilic (Manzinga), Hylton (Mugabi), Long.
Subs not used: Carson, MacIver, Grimshaw, Seedorf.