Livingston ensured the battle for the Premiership top six down will go down to the final pre-split fixtures after racking up a third win of the season over St Johnstone courtesy of first half Joel Nouble and Steven Kelly goals.

However, Davie Martindale’s side will need to overcome Dundee United and hope that Hibs and St Mirren, teams who - along with superior goal differences - are one and two points above them in the league, slip up. 

Victory for Hibs in the Edinburgh derby meant this game became a must-win for the Lions in their bid to finish in the higher echelons of the Premiership and the players did not let their manager down.

The manner of this defeat will be of concern to St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson and the travelling fans.

After a woeful first half showing, Saints improved after the break but that was partly because Livingston instinctively sat deeper as the second half progressed.

The Perth outfit are four points clear of the relegation zone with six matches remaining.

Realising their predicament, the home side started well as they looked to respond from successive 3-0 losses.

Steven Bradley was the first to threaten when he found himself goal side of the Saints defence but he dragged a left-footed effort wide from an angle inside the area.

Nouble then attempted to lift the ball over Remi Matthews from inside the box as the visiting defence went to sleep again but the Saints goalkeeper was alert to the danger to deny the marksman.

St Johnstone were struggling to get going although the Perth side at least tested Lions goalkeeper Shamal George after 11 minutes.

Connor McLennan met Jamie Murphy’s cross from the left although his header lacked conviction and George made a routine save.

Livingston, however, did break the deadlock with a simple goal in the 23rd minute.

Bruce Anderson dropped deep to receive the ball and brilliantly spun his man before playing in Nouble.

The forward still had work to do but he fended off Drey Wright before curling a shot high into the net from the edge of the box.

The offside flag and subsequent validation from VAR then denied Livingston a second just after the half hour mark.

Anderson had strayed into illegal territory before teeing up Bradley for a tap in.

The home fans were back on their feet cheering in the 38th minute, however, this time to applaud a stunning Bradley free-kick that doubled Livingston’s lead.

READ MORE: Hibs manager Lee Johnson savours 'emotional' Edinburgh derby win

Cammy MacPherson upended Anderson just outside the area and former Rangers trainee Kelly’s effort over the wall skimmed the inside of the post on its way to beating Matthews.

After such an insipid first half display from his team, it was not surprising that Saints boss Davidson turned to his bench for inspiration.

Graham Carey replaced Dan Phillips but the Irishman wasted a great chance to make an impact just six minutes into the half.

McLennan cut the ball back for his team-mate but Carey - on his unfavoured right foot - swept a first time shot over the bar from 12 yards.

Livingston’s reluctance to simply try and protect their lead saw the action swing from end to end.

The hosts continued to get bodies forward in promising situations but they failed to exhibit the composure they showed in the first half.

Cristian Montano took a heavy touch from a Nicky Devlin cut back with just the keeper to beat, while Anderson failed to get proper contact on a pass from Bradley inside the area.

Needing to work hard to create anything of note in the final third, St Johnstone needed to be ruthless when their chances came along.

So the sight of Melker Hallberg sending a volley wide from an Adam Montgomery cross only compounded Saints’ frustrations.

It was a similar story with ten minutes remaining when Morgan Boyes was well positioned to clear a Carey drive off the line.

That was as good as it got as Livingston held on to claim all the spoils.