In an entertaining match that had plenty of pace, goalmouth action and tactical intrigue, the away side kept the pressure on their disadvantaged hosts after Halkett was sent packing for a professional foul inside 17 minutes, and eventually saw their determination rewarded with the two goals in the space of three minutes as the match reached the closing stages.
The result takes Oran Kearney’s men six points clear of Dundee at the bottom of the table and within two points of Hamilton Accies in the safety of tenth place. With just four games remaining and a match between the sides to come in Paisley, there is now every confidence that the team who once went three-and-a-half months without winning a match can secure their top flight status without the drama of the play-offs.
Both sides began at a frantic pace with Livingston going close twice in the opening exchanges. Keaghan Jacobs curled an early effort over, before Scott Robinson lashed a shot wide from 18 yards out.
Halkett’s sending off was the game’s defining moment. A slice of misfortune played a part in the build up, with Ethan Erhahon’s attempted through ball rebounding beyond the defender. With Brad Lyons ready to race through on goal, Halkett attempted a desperate lunge and brought his opponent down. There was cover in the area but there’s little doubt Lyons would’ve got a shot away were it not for the foul and referee Willie Collum produced the red card.
Stunningly, it was the home side who then forced themselves in front. Robinson, Scott Pittman and Steven Lawless worked an excellent move down the right with the latter released into the box. When goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky rushing from his line, Lawless slipped it back for Robinson who simply passed into an empty net.
It would be the last action of Lawless’ day as he was replaced by Hakeem Odoffin in a move to solidify the defence. The hosts changed to a 3-5-1 and soon found themselves incapable of making the ball stick in attack. It was therefore no surprise when St Mirren hit back just six minutes after the opener. Paul McGinn was played in by Anders Dreyer and the wing-back managed to beat the goalkeeper from a tight angle.
“I think it was really big to get the equaliser so soon,” said St Mirren boss Kearney. “As well as we’ve been doing and the strides that we’ve made, in the size of the game and the pressure that goes with it, the longer it went on the more frustrating it could have become.”
Though the away side kept up their pressure to the half, it was actually the ten-men who had the best chance. Ryan Hardie’s shot rebounded straight into Scott Pittman’s path and were it not for a last-ditch challenge from Ryan Flynn, Livingston would surely have been back in front.
St Mirren responded with a change at the break as forward Simeon Jackson replaced centre-back Gary Mackenzie. The attacking move almost paid dividends immediately with Danny Mullen heading into the arms of Liam Kelly. The keeper then denied Jackson minutes later.
At the same end where Flynn produced his miraculous interception, Odoffin did likewise for Livingston to deny Jackson with the striker set to score after being found by Mullen.
Livingston reshaped themselves into a four-man defence and that seemed to stem the flow as the game dropped into a lull. Things exploded back to life again in the closing stages as the visitors finally broke through for the second time. After Kyle Magennis, just on as a sub, was denied by Kelly, the ball found its way to Mullen on the edge of the box. Spinning on to his left foot, the striker arrowed a lot shot into the corner of the net.
The points were wrapped up two minutes later when another substitute, Kyle McAllister, tried his luck from 25 yards. When Kelly fumbled the effort, Jackson was on hand to turn it home.