Joel Nouble netted two second-half goals to inspire a Livingston fightback at Firhill and take David Martindale’s side into the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup.
The visitors had trailed to goals from Kerr McInroy and Aidan Fitzpatrick before Nouble bagged a brace to take the game to extra-time with Tete Yengi coming up with a dramatic 120th minute winner.
By that stage it was all Livingston with a sense of inevitability about the winner. Jamie Brandon’s cross picked out Yengi who netted with a glancing header on the cusp of full-time in the added 30 to seal the game for the Premiership side before the lottery of penalties.
Livingston’s celebrations were more about relief than anything else as they took the acclaim from their small band of travelling supporters but Martingale will be optimistic now that the same and heart and desire can be seen across the remaining months of the league campaign.
Thistle manager Kris Doolan accepted after the game that he had made a mistake in being too hasty with his substitutes. He hooked Brian Graham and Steven Lawless just after the hour mark; two minutes later Livingston had pulled a goal back.
“There are lessons for us and for me to learn,” said Doolan. “Making two subs early on in hindsight was probably too quick but I kind of knew what was coming in terms of the physicality.
“We tried to pre-empt that and stop that but ultimately it’s difficult, they are such a powerful side and they made it count
“I’m just gutted we didn’t get through.”
It had been a fairly open start to the game with both sides forcing decent chances.
Nouble looked to make an early impression while Thistle in Brian Graham and Fitzpatrick were capable of causing a few issues of their own.
Graham forced an early save from Livvy keeper Michael McGovern after Livingston were slack at the back.
The visitors felt they ought to have had a penalty after a corner bounced awkwardly in the box as they appealed for a hand. With no VAR their appeals fell on deaf erars.
It could have got worse for them when Jack McMillan sent a low cross into the box and Ayo Obileye almost poked the ball into his own net.
If Livingston ignored the portents of what was to come, there was little they could do about McInroy’s opener. The midfielder collected before advancing and unleashing a left-foot 30-yard drive into the bottom corner that left McGovern with no chance.
With their tails up, Thistle went on the hunt for a second.
Lawless picked out Fitzpatrick but his low ball across the six-yard box was cleared before Graham could get himself on the end of it.
Livingston managed to steady the game and Thistle rode their luck towards the end of the opening period.
Yengi had a header chopped off with the Australian clearly aggrieved at the call as Livingston were penalised for a foul in the build-up while Jamie Sneddon had to tip a Stephen Kelly effort round the post from close range.
The Jags doubled their advantage when Fitzpatrick added their second of the afternoon. Jinking into the box, he cut onto his right side before beating McGovern at his near post.
Livingston’s response was immediate with Nouble pulling one back. Kelly’s corner was headed down by Yengi with Nouble tapping in from close range.
The visitors were almost back on level terms a minute later when the ball fell to Obileye at the back post from a corner but he could not turn it into the net, much to Thistle’s relief.
Tomi Adeloye almost gave them the chance to breathe significantly easier when he thought he added a third with a looping effort that beat McGovern but came off the inside of the post.
Livingston took the reprieve as they pulled themselves back level. Andrew Shine collected from Kelly before feeding Nouble who fired into the top corner.
In truth, it had been coming.
Neither team could find the breakthrough with extra-time necessary.
Sneddon was the busier of the two keepers as he was forced to parry a Noble cross before then saving from Yengi from close range.
The Jags stopper had to get down to hold an effort from Kelly after he had let fly with a low effort from the edge of the box. It was mostly one-way traffic by that stage with Livingston going for the winner.
Bruce Anderson thought he’d won it for Livvy with a header that Sneddon parried but it was a stay of execution. Just as the game looked to be heading to penalties, Yengi glanced a header into the bottom corner.
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