St Johnstone may not have been everyone’s pick to be the team to halt the Livingston bandwagon.
However, you knew within minutes of kick-off on Saturday that the McDiarmid men fancied it.
While others sides have stepped back and shown Livi plenty of respect during the 14-match unbeaten run, Saints began like the home team and almost scored through a back-post strike from Jason Kerr just two minutes in.
Significantly, they made immediate good use of wing-backs Shaun Rooney on the right and Scott Tanser on the left and it was no accident that those two turned out to be the match winners.
Tanser’s freekick opener was a perfectly timed just seconds before the interval, while Rooney’s glancing header off Liam Craig’s setpiece put the visitors in command on 51 minutes.
Scott Pittman got one back for the hosts seven minutes from time but it stayed at 2-1 and the points went back up the road.
Callum Davidson’s men could even afford a missed penalty, with Livingston keeper Max Stryjek saving Stevie May’s kick when it was still 2-0 to the visitors.
It was a battle for the man-of-the-atch award between Tanser and Rooney but the latter just edged it.
Rooney tormented Livi down the right flank all afternoon and then showed once again how dangerous he is in the air by scoring his team’s second goal.
He also won a penalty and helped Saints to “out-Livi Livi,” as one onlooker observed on Saturday.
That is why it wasn’t totally convincing when Saints boss Callum Davidson insisted they hadn’t devised a comprehensive game plan for this fixture. It didn’t look that way.
The McDiarmid manager said: “We didn’t really work on tactics.
“We focused on the attitude and commitment because that’s what you need to get a result here.
“I thought it showed and it was the most pleasing thing for me.
“Livingston were 14 games unbeaten and are a good side – they battle for everything.
“So we knew we had to come here, fight just as hard as them or even harder.
“That’s what got us the result.”
Again, it was a challenge to agree with Davidson when he argued that this result is irrelevant as far as the Betfred Cup final is concerned.
The teams will face each other again on February 28 to decide who lifts the silverware.
What this display did was give Saints all the confidence they will need that they can bring the trophy home.
However, Davidson claimed: “This won’t have any bearing on the cup final.
“It is a different day, a different surface and a bigger pitch.
“There could be different players playing at Hampden so it won’t have any impact.
“The main thing for us until the final comes around is the league and this gets us another three points.
“We just have to keep picking them up until we are safe.
“We have to make sure we get the wins we need.”
Davidson is obviously playing it cool but he did acknowledge how good a performance it was from his players.
“It is a great result, just like it was coming back from 2-0 down against Kilmarnock last weekend,” he said.
“We were a bit unlucky against Rangers in midweek but over the last month I have been really happy with the way we have played.”
Davidson, quite rightly, singled out Rooney for praise.
He said: “It was great for Shaun to get a goal because he has been patient and he is very good in both boxes.
“It was a fantastic header for his goal and that is the kind of threat he brings for us.
“At Scott’s goal, I actually thought it had hit the metal behind the goal and gone wide and it was only when I heard the shouts of ‘yes’ that I realised he had scored.
“It was a very good freekick.”
While St Johnstone were up for it all afternoon, Livi were surprisingly flat and unimpressive.
They looked to have lost their oomph, perhaps not suprising after such a long unbeaten sequence.
Saints will be hoping they won’t find their mojo again before Hampden.
Martindale said: “It was two bad goals from our point of view and two good goals from St Johnstone’s point of view.
“We didn’t defend our box well enough for a 10-minute spell either side of half-time and we weren’t getting close enough at their set-plays.
“They scored from a freekick and then with a decent header but we didn’t defend well enough.
“St Johnstone defended better than us and their deliveries were better than ours were and that is disappointing.
“They were more aggressive at attacking the ball at set-plays but in the final third there was very little from both teams.
“There were few opportunities and we basically lost the game through two set-plays as there wasn’t a lot in it.”