THREE players were sent off as Bathgate Thistle won the battle of wills in the West Lothian derby.
The Jags’ emphatic win at Creamery Park signalled their intent to begin their ascent off the foot of the table while simultaneously shattering Lithga’s title dream.
It has been a season to forget for Bathgate Thistle who have been struggling against the tide at the wrong end of the table all season.
The Jags went into this clash with title-chasing Linlithgow Rose on Saturday propping up the rest but they were in sensational form as they romped to a 4-1 win.
And remarkably, due to their games in hand, Bathgate could mathematically now finish the season above Rose should they win all their games.
Rose, currently on 31 points, can only accumulate a maximum of 37 while Thistle, on 16 points, could finish the season on 40.
After winning four games on the bounce Rose’s title tilt hit a blip when they lost at home last weekend so they were desperate to get back to winning ways.
The visitors enjoyed the majority of the early play and they thought they had won a penalty when Gordon Herd was chopped down by Willie Wilson.
As last man the Bathgate stopper had to go and he was promptly sent off but the man in the middle ruled the foul had taken place right on the edge of the box and awarded a free-kick instead of the expect penalty.
It was a lucky break for the Jags but they did fall behind just a minute into the second half when Herd lashed the ball home from just inside the box.
Rose had the initiative and control of the game, and they thought they had doubled their lead a few minutes later when Gary Livingstone crashed a thunderous drive off the underside of the crossbar.
The ball dropped down onto the line and was hacked clear by the frantic Bathgate rearguard.
And the hosts were level after 54 minutes when Paul McGrillen smashed in a free-kick from the edge of the box.
County derby matches always have a bit of needle about them and this was no different and 20 minutes from the end Rose were reduced to 10 men as ref Gavin Ross even up the numbers.
Goal hero Herd turned villain after aiming an off the ball kick at home sub Fraser Love.
The Rose striker was already in the ref’s book so he was promptly shown a second yellow card and had to leave the field.
Eight minutes from time Bathgate grabbed the lead when Jim Lister raced clear and planted the ball in the bottom corner.
Thistle added a third a few minutes later when Alan Neill converted from close range at the second attempt after his initial effort had come back off the post.
The game was slipping away from Rose but they did themselves no favours by losing another player as the red mist descended on Creamery Park.
Sub Stuart McArthur joined Herd in the dressing room after an alleged headbutt on Thistle’s Brian McColligan.
And worse was to come for the visitors when Brian McPhee netted a fourth with the game’s final attack.
Bathgate Thistle: Longmuir, Wilson, Neill, Menmuir, Easton (Gupwell 50), Riley (Love 70), Nicholson, McColligan, Lister, McGrillen (McPhee 89), McLaren. Subs not used: Elliot, Carlin.
Linlithgow Rose: Pinkowski, Robertson, McDermott (James 79min), Donnelly, Gallacher, Smith, McEwan, McDowall (Hogg 59), Coyne, Herd, Livingstone (McArthur 65). Subs not used: Bradley, Bruce.