Longridge (34), Lithgow (53, 86) – O’Ware (18), Lamie (69)
Morton’s play-off fate was wrenched from their own hands after losing out by the odd goal in five to second-placed Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena this afternoon.
David Hopkin’s side picked up all three points from a game in which the stress was on set-pieces, with four goals coming from corner kicks and the other from a long throw.
Thomas O’Ware headed Ton in front before Jackson Longridge nodded home an equaliser to send the sides in level at the interval.
One-time Ton trialist Alan Lithgow turned the game on its head and then repeated the trick to snatch all three points with four minutes remaining after Ricki Lamie had lashed the ball into the net to draw his side level.
Defender Lamie was moved to left-back for this match in one of three tweaks to the team that drew with Dundee United in order to match up with Livi’s more physical approach.
He replaced the more slight Mark Russell at full-back, Luca Gasparotto joined Thomas O’Ware in the centre of defence, while towering targetman Robert Thomson was deployed on the left of front three ahead of John Baird.
Ton made a positive start and, after Michael Tidser had tested veteran goalkeeper Neil Alexander with a crisp low drive, they took the lead through the first of several successful set-plays over the course of the 90 minutes.
It was in the 18th minute that Gary Harkins clipped over an outswinging corner that Gasparotto did superbly well to direct back towards the target.
The Canadian’s original effort looked as though it might have dropped inside the post, but while everyone was focused on the original trajectory, O’Ware darted into the centre of the six-yard box to stoop and nod into the net.
Unfortunately, the Greenock men also struggled to adequately defend set-pieces and the hosts restored parity via a long throw in the 34th minute.
Centre-half Lithgow sauntered forward to hurl the ball into the box, and Ton were slow to react twice. Firstly, when Craig Halkett flicked on at the near post, and secondly when Longridge ghosted in to head past Gaston.
Although the visitors had controlled the first half hour or so, Livingston presided over the remainder of the opening period, and only two smart Gaston stops prevented them from edging in front.
On 40 minutes, the 30-year-old produced a remarkable reaction save to claw Ryan Hardie’s flick-on over the bar after Raffaele De Vita had fizzed a low free-kick into the box from out on the left.
Then in the final minute of the first 45, he thwarted the Rangers loanee for a second time by dropping to his right and smothering a flick towards target off a low cross from the left.
It was former Scotland cap Alexander’s turn to produce the goods between the sticks, clutching Scott Tiffoney’s stinging half-volley and then scooping up Gary Oliver’s low drive within six minutes of the restart.
Gaston reciprocated with a brilliant block of his own as the action see-sawed back to the other end, brushing Hardie’s thunderous drive past the upright and against the outside netting at his left.
Unfortunately, it only served to delay Livingston’s second goal of the afternoon, Lithgow leaping like salmon to rise above everyone and to glance Jordan Thompson’s inswinging corner inside the left post on 53 minutes.
Gaffer Duffy responded to falling behind with a double change, bringing on Frank Ross and Bob McHugh for Harkins and Oliver and switching from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2, with Ross and Tiffoney as orthodox widemen.
The subsitutes came within a whisker of making their presence felt within 60 seconds of joing the fray thanks to a familiar free-kick routine.
Tidser feigned to clip the ball into the box before instead reversing a pass down the outside of the wall for Aberdeen loanee Ross to chase after.
The 20-year-old got to the ball just before it ran out of pay and did well to readjust his body and pick out McHugh arriving at the near post. The striker, too, did well to recalibrate to the delivery but hooked into the side-netting.
In keeping with the theme of the afternoon, Morton would equalise from another deadball situation in the 69th minute of the match.
Tidser swung over a corner to the far post and Gasparotto again caused consternation in the home box, heading down into the area for Lamie to hook a ferocious left-footed effort high into the net.
It was just his second ever goal for the club. His previous strike came in the 93rd minute of a Renfrewshire derby on Hogmanay 2016, and this initially looked like it had the potential to be equally memorable.
Livingston aren’t second in the Ladbrokes Championship for nothing, though, and stepped up the search for a winning goal in the final 10 minutes.
They came within a coat of paint of edging in front on 82 minutes when skipper Halkett barged out from the back and discharged a daisycutter that cracked the base of the left post.
But, with just four minutes left on the clock, Livingston ensured they would extend their favourable run of results against the Ton to four wins and one draw in five meetings this term.
The disappointing aspect from an away perspective was not only the fact that the goal was conceded from another set-piece but that it was scored by Lithgow in very similar fashion to his first goal.
Keaghan Jacobs fired over an inswinging corner from the left this time and the commanding centre-half once again dominated the pack to send a downwards past Gaston inside the right post and claim maximum points.
6. Doyle 19. Gasparotto 4. O’Ware (c) 5. Lamie
3. Murdoch 14. Harkins 12. Tidser
15. Tiffoney 7. Oliver 10. Thomson
Subs used: 11. McHugh (for Oliver, 62), 25. Ross (for Harkins, 62), and 17. Russell (for Tiffoney, 88).
Subs not used: 18. Baird, 23. Fraser, 26. Iredale, 20. Brennan (gk).
Booked: Lamie (60).
Livingston (352): Alexander; Buchanan, Halkett (c), Lithgow; De Vita (Frizzell, 79), Pittman, Byrne, Thompson (Jacobs, 59), Longridge; Miller, Hardie (Cadden, 67).
Subs not used: McMillan, Mullin, Robinson, Maley (gk).
Booked: Longridge (63).
Referee: Stephen Kirkland
Image: David Bell