Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson admitted his side ‘got bullied all over the park’ in their defeat to Livingston.
The Steelmen have won plaudits all season for displays that have eased them to third in the table behind Celtic and Rangers.
However, the Fir Park side were well below their best as Aaron Taylor-Sinclair’s second-half header clinched all three points for the hosts.
It could have been more emphatic for Livingston but for a sparkling display from ‘Well keeper Mark Gillespie.
And Robinson insists an inability to match the Lions for their physicality cost his team dearly as they lost for the first time in 2020.
He said: “Livingston are very difficult to play against. It is not pretty but it is effective.
“That is not a criticism of Livingston. They deserve nothing but credit and nothing but three points.
“I’ll analyse it to death and when you break it all down – pretty patterns, passing the ball, whatever you do – we didn’t win the battle, we got outfought.
“We got bullied all over the park. There’s no point in analysing it any more than that.
“I thought the boy [Lyndon] Dykes was outstanding up front. He bullied us all day.”
Livingston were the better side right from the off and created all but one of the chances throughout a dominant 90 minutes.
Dykes set the tone in the sixth minute with a sharp shot that Gillespie had to beat away and the Lions striker was in the thick of the action again eight minutes later when the Motherwell keeper had to keep out his effort after a Jon Guthrie knockdown.
Thereafter, Gillespie saved twice from Scott Pittman, turned away a Scott Robinson drive and was relieved to see a Guthrie volley sail over.
After the interval, Dykes had a shot deflected wide before Gillespie saved bravely from Marvin Bartley.
Finally, the breakthrough came for Livingston midway through the second period.
A long throw-in from Ciaron Brown was allowed to bounce and Taylor-Sinclair rose at the back post to head into the top corner from close range.
The West Lothian outfit could have added to their lead, with Gillespie saving again from Pittman and Dykes coming close on two separate occasions.
Motherwell finally carved out an opportunity as they desperately sought an equaliser late on but a bouncing shot from captain Peter Hartley came back off the post.
Livingston had assistant-manager David Martindale cautioned for disputing a foul given against Bartley, whilst manager Gary Holt was also booked late on for complaining about a ruling from referee John Beaton.
Holt said: “Marvin kickstarted the second half with his play, getting in people’s faces, and that was a great tackle.
“John thought it was more aggressive and he went through the man to win the ball – fair enough.
“But then when it happens to Lyndon on the far side there’s not a booking, so we’re just looking for some consistency.”