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Mark O’Hara scored two penalties as St Mirren improved their chances of a top-six finish with a comfortable 3-0 cinch Premiership home victory over Livingston.

All the goals came in the first half, with two scored from the penalty spot by O’Hara, either side of Tony Watt’s first strike for the Paisley club.

Livingston’s best chance fell to Andrew Shinnie late in the opening period but his effort struck the crossbar then post but did not cross the line.

St Mirren made four changes from the side that drew at Dundee United. Out went Scott Tanser, Richard Taylor, Greg Kiltie and Alex Greive, replaced by Thierry Small, Joe Shaughnessy, Watt and Charles Dunne.

Livingston, in turn, made two alterations following their victory over Ross County. In came Kurtis Guthrie and Jack Fitzwater, with Bruce Anderson and Cristian Montano both dropping to the bench.

The home side were awarded their first penalty after four minutes. Curtis Main’s flick was handled by Luiyi De Lucas within the opening 20 seconds but referee John Beaton played on and O’Hara was booked for a foul on Scott Pittman as Livingston countered.

VAR, however, finally intervened and – after a three-minute wait – Beaton was called to the screen before awarding the spot-kick that O’Hara converted.

Livingston replied with a Joel Nouble shot that drifted beyond the far post before Watt’s header from a Small cross was deflected into the goalkeeper’s arms.

The striker, though, would not be denied after 18 minutes when he claimed his first St Mirren goal. Main’s cross picked him out in the centre and he showed great footwork to flummox George to leave himself a tap in as the home side doubled their lead.

Main – who looked offside – could have claimed a third for the home side before half-time but tamely chipped the ball straight into the goalkeeper’s arms.

That could have been costly if Nouble had managed to keep his header from Nicky Devlin’s cross on target rather than nodding well over.

Instead it was Saints who scored next, again from the spot after Jason Holt was adjudged to have handled.

It went once more to VAR with Beaton agreeing that it merited a penalty that O’Hara converted. The home side thought they had scored a fourth before the interval only for Main to be ruled offside.

Livingston’s luck – or lack of – was summed up by Shinnie’s shot in injury time that struck the bar then the post but did not drop over the line.

Substitute Cristian Montano was unlucky to see his header saved by Trevor Carson 30 seconds after the restart before Devlin’s driven effort went only narrowly wide.

St Mirren, though, quickly stemmed any possible comeback to coast through to a precious three points.