PREMIERSHIP play-off convention dictates that Livingston will not be coming up to the top tier of Scottish football.

In the previous three two-legged ties that have decided who is granted a place in the highest echelon of our game, the team who started there remained there. Motherwell beat Rangers, a hapless Kilmarnock side trounced Falkirk, and only last year an Accies outfit bereft of confidence somehow found it within themselves to deny Dundee United.

There is, however, always an exception to the rule. Livingston threaten to be that exception.

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Not since the first SPFL Premiership play-off between Hibernian and Hamilton have the Championship team prevailed, that meeting in 2014 being decided on penalties. At the Tony Macaroni Arena, David Hopkin’s Livingston took a huge stride to being the next with a narrowly but ultimately deserved 2-1 win over Partick Thistle.

A goal down after 10 minutes as the Firhill club through Kris Doolan – who else? – parity was restored within three minutes via Keaghan Jacobs’ right boot. It took until the 74th minute before Scott Pittman crashed the winner and himself into Tomas Cerny’s net, but in truth the roaring, snarling and fighting Lions always looked the more likely to get the third goal in this nervy contest.

Despite previous play-off outcomes, the end result here will not have been a tremendous surprise to either set of supporters who made up the 5469 crowd. Thistle with just 31 goals were the lowest scorers in the top flight, and the front two of Doolan and Conor Sammon rarely troubled Neil Alexander in the Livingston goal. Their goal was their only shot on target, and long diagonal balls into the box were gobbled up by the brutes in black.

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Conversely, Livi banged in 1.5 goals per game on a way to their second-place finish, and their average could have been further boosted if it wasn’t for Cerny and some better finishing.

The game raged from end to end at times, occasionally with the ball less than 50 feet off the deck, and was fiercely combative as one would expect of Hopkin’s team. The Livingston manager and his players make no apologies for their kick and rush, robust style. It is one that served them well on a tight pitch. Thistle may well find more joy on Sunday when they get the tie back to Firhill.

But the boos which rang out from the 1500 or so travelling fans told a story. Thistle dug deep to save themselves from certain relegation on the last game of the season. They must delve even farther to find a solution not just to stop Livingston at one end, but create enough chances at the other end. And take them.

For all the end result, Thistle started brightly, Doolan almost creeping in within the first few minutes as the sun blinded three quarters of the ground.

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On nine minutes Livingston responded by almost taking the lead. The impressive Jordan Thompson’s whipped free-kick was headed back across goal at the back post by Declan Gallagher, but there were no takers to turn the ball into the net.

Six minutes later, and he found his mark. The predatory striker was the man to keep his side up at Dens Park on the last game of the season, and he ghosted away beautifully six yards out to get on the end of a Baily Cargill cross and nod downwards beyond Alexander.

The visiting fans had only just finished celebrating as the home end erupted. The clock struck 13 minutes as Livi worked the ball across the Thistle box. It eventually reached the unmarked Jacobs who somehow managed to wrap his foot around the ball, sending it across Cerny and into the keeper’s net. The Czech shot stopper will be disappointed not to have got a stronger hand to the ball.

Livingston had the bit between their teeth now and began to probe further. They should have grabbed a second on 22 minutes as the ball eventually bounced to Thompson at the edge of the area. His composure deserted him at the vital moment, though, his low thumping shot whistling by the near post.

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Thistle seemed determined to try and match the muscle of their opponents so much that not a lot of football was actually played by Alan Archibald’s side. On the half hour at the back Danny Devine was robbed of possession by Thompson at the back. The Livingston forward attempted to break away on goal only to collapse under the recovering Devine’s attention. Referee Craig Thomson said no foul despite the howls from the home support.

In the second half Thistle’s support looked for a reaction and for their side to take the initiative. Instead, Scott Pittman’s meandering run saw their side’s defence exposed again, with Cerny doing well to get down low to block.

Pittman would not be denied though. His moment came on 74 minutes and after good work down the left from Josh Mullin. His driving run and low cutback found his team-mate in middle with space and he crashed the ball home.