David Hopkin’s hopefuls are now favourites to reach the Premiership Play-Off final thanks to this stirring semi-final first-leg win over ten-man United having come from behind in spirited style to typify their season.
Scott Pittman’s dramatic 80th-minute winner sealed a remarkable comeback after Josh Mullin’s equaliser three minutes earlier had cancelled out goals by Thomas Mikkelsen and Anthony Ralston, following Rafa De Vita’s whirlwind 70th-second opener which stunned Csaba Laszlo’s Tangerines.
To make matters worse for United, skipper Willo Flood was sent off for lifting his arm to Shaun Byrne in 88 minutes having previously been booked.
On the last day of the league season, United beat runners-up Livi 2-0 on Tayside to seal third spot in the Championship. But that was in the past and all eyes were now on how these two promotion rivals would fare under the glare of the live cameras.
United got off to the worst possible start by falling behind after only 70 seconds.
Some sloppy play saw Scott McDonald lose possession before Jamie Robson then misjudged a tackle.
Scott Robinson wasted no time in feeding a pass into De Vita who hit a low shot across Harry Lewis from 14 yards, to send the small band of travelling fans wild.
However, their lead was short-lived.
Sam Stanton sprayed a pass wide for Billy King who cut the ball back for Mikkelsen whose left-foot volley from 16 yards left Neil Alexander helpless as it nestled in the far corner.
This was a whirlwind start if there ever was such a thing and Livi came close to regaining the lead in nine minutes.
On this occasion, De Vita appeared offside but there was no flag and the Italian ace’s effort was parried wide by Lewis.
Then, in 18 minutes, the visitors were appealing for a penalty.
Robinson went to ground under a challenge by Stewart Murdoch, but referee Nick Walsh was up with play and didn’t deem it to be a trip so waved play on.
United, though, struck next in 28 minutes. Stanton swept a pass to the on-rushing Ralston who unleashed a powerful drive which took a slight deflection off Jackson Longridge on its way past Alexander.
The Taysiders were showing no signs of tiredness, although their opponents weren’t out of it and posed a huge threat at set-pieces every time they had the chance to put the ball into United’s box.
United almost went further ahead in 51 minutes. Ralston went on the overlap and his whipped cross was met by McDonald, only for Alexander to make a superb reflex save.
At the other end, Robinson split the home defence with a weighted pass but De Vita couldn’t find the legs to get there first as Lewis raced off his line to gather.
Ralston was a threat down the right with his darting runs and midway through the second half he linked well with Scott Fraser. The move ended with Fraser ghosting past two Livi challenges only to be stopped in the end by Longridge’s sliding tackle inside the box.
Urged on by their noisy fans, Hopkin’s visitors were full of guts and De Vita’s drive soon after from just outside the penalty area was blocked much to the relief of the home side.
However, they weren’t finished there. Hopkin’s high-fliers levelled in 77 minutes when United defensive duo Robson and Bilel Mohsni got in a mix-up and allowed Mullin to run through and fire past Lewis.
Then, in 80 minutes, Stewart Murdoch lost possession and Pittman did the rest, racing through on goal and staying calm before poking his shot beyond Lewis.