PARTICK THISTLE’S Premiership status is hanging by a thread after Livingston edged a brutal encounter at the Tony Macaroni Arena by two goals to one, a pinfall and submission.

An early Kris Doolan opener for the Jags looked to have given the top-flight outfit the dream start, but Livi’s Lions roared back to level immediately through Keaghan Jacobs, before a Scott Pittman goal a quarter of an hour before the end gave David Hopkin’s men the advantage heading into Sunday’s second leg at Firhill.

The game was more agricultural than an episode of Worzel Gummidge filmed in Perthshire, and in truth, neither side did much to showcase what they could bring to next season’s Premiership. Not that the club who does end up there will care one jot, and given what was at stake, some leeway should be given for the rather primitive approach taken by both teams.

Thistle were braced for an aerial bombardment and the opening minutes didn’t disappoint as Livi shelled balls into their box with the visitors standing firm.

Firhill manager Alan Archibald had stressed the need to limit the home side’s set-piece opportunities, but Danny Devine must have missed that meeting as he hauled down Jordan Thompson on the right of the area. Thompson swung the ball to the back post where Declan Gallagher headed across the goalline, but there were no takers for Livi.

They were to rue that missed opportunity moments later as Thistle hit the front, with Baily Cargill swinging in a glorious cross that Doolan rose to head home before taking the acclaim of the Thistle support for the 115th time in his career.

If Thistle thought that would dishearten Livi though then that theory was immediately blown out of the water as they levelled up the score, and the goal was one in the eye for the critics who dismiss them as a route-one outfit.

They worked the ball brilliantly from the left to the right across the edge of the Thistle area where Jacobs was arriving to sidefoot across Tomas Cerny and into the net. It made it all the more puzzling though why they so often shun such an approach when they clearly have ability in their ranks.

Regardless, Livi had the wind in their sails once more, and the majority of the home crowd were celebrating as Thompson caught a half-volley sweetly from the edge of the box that flashed just wide and into the side-netting, rather than in the rigging.

It was like the old Almondvale had come to life once more, despite the infamous name-change, as tackles flew in and no quarter was given to the approval of the bloodthirsty punters.

Devine then got himself in a fankle as he allowed the ball to slip under his foot and then seemed to barge down Thompson as he latched onto the ball and race in on goal, but Thistle nerves were settled as referee Craig Thomson ran towards the incident with apparent intent only to shrug his shoulders and take no action.

Thistle’s approach of crossing from deep positions was bearing little fruit, with the Livingston back three and goalkeeper Neil Alexander easily mopping up most of what came their way, and you sensed that a change of tact would be required at the interval to regain a foothold in the game.

The second half started much as the first had left off, with the ball being thundered forward by both sides at every opportunity. It is little wonder the Livi pitch is in such decent nick. Pittman pierced the brutality with some finesse at last as a jinking run ended with him in the box and in on Cerny, but the Thistle keeper spread himself well to block away with his knees.

It didn’t seem to dawn on Thistle that getting the ball on the deck and playing to their own strengths may just be a more productive use of their time in possession, but when the home side decided to try it again, what do you know? They got what could be a crucial winner on the night.

The ball as worked wide to substitute Josh Mullin, who charged to the byline before firing the ball across goal for the onrushing Scott Pittman to sidefoot high into the net.

Worryingly, there was little response from the visitors, and they will have to raise their game considerably by Sunday if they are to avoid being condemned to the Championship. Avoiding playing the game on Livingston’s terms would be a start, but the Thistle players must surely now know that if they want to retain their Premiership status, they are going to have to fight for it.

LIVINGSTON: Alexander; Gallagher, Halkett, Lithgow; Thompson (Josh Mullin, 60’), Robinson (Cadden, 78’) Byrne, Pittman, Longridge; Miller, Jacobs.

Scorers: Jacobs (14’), Pittman (74’)

Booked: Byrne (43’), Thompson (45’)

PARTICK THISTLE: Cerny; McGinn, Devine, Cargill, Booth; Edwards, Woods, Barton, Lawless (Spittal, 67’); Doolan, Sammon (Storey, 84’)

Scorers: Doolan (10’)

Booked: Devine (51’)

Referee: Craig Thomson

Attendance: 5469