Falkirk were brave, Falkirk were bold, Falkirk blew Hibs away - but crashed out of the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final in extra time.
A wonder-strike from Leigh Griffiths swung the game Hibs’ way five minutes from the end of extra-time to seal a place in the a final place 4-3.
The Bairns had simply blown their SPL opponents away in the first half, and a final berth for the Edinburgh club was unfathomable at half-time with the Bairns leading 3-0.
But a rally in the second half saw the game levelled by Eoin Doyle despite Michael McGovern saving a Leigh Griffiths penalty.
The Bairns had battered Hibernian in the first half, taking the lead through Craig Sibbald and extending it through Jay Fulton and Blair Alston.
But second half strikes from Hibs’ youngster Alex Harris and Griffiths put the tie on a knife-edge before Doyle sent it to extra-time and Griffiths lashed in the winner.
That though was unthinkable after Falkirk raced into a dream start.
Michael McGovern foiled Leigh Griffiths at the near post after the striker and midfielder Kevin Thomson got the better of Stephen Kingsley. It was the most testing effort for McGovern to take in the first half and propelled Falkirk forward and into the lead.Taylor raced into the box and cut in from the right, and cut back behind Blair Alston, the ball bobbled from Conor McGrandles path and the loose ball was casually swept into the net by Craig Sibbald from 12 yards.The youngsters’ parents were in raptures, but more was to follow in the row behind them, when Jay Fulton sent a diving header into the net on 18 minutes.
The Bairns had won a free-kick after a remarkable burst from right-back by Kieran Duffie, he was crudely taken out by Scott Robertson as he crossed halfway and offloaded to Blair Alston. Ref Iain Brines allowed play to progress but called it up when Alston was cynically tugged back by Kevin Thomson and both were booked.
Falkirk wanted a red card, they got better when Sibbald’s freekick was booted across goal by Jonny Flynn. It caught the Hibs’ defence moving out in the offside trap and left Jay Fulton to dive andheader into the corner.
It was the youngsters’ second goal at Hampden semi-finals in as many seasons.
Hibernian crumbled. Fans started leaving as soon as the ball hit the net, Stevie Fulton in the stand had mirrored his son’s motion and practically headed it in himself.
A few fans had moved initially, more followed when the third hit the net - but they missed the remainder of an almighty cup tie and comeback by their side.
Hibs had gone close when a scuffed volley from Jorge Claros spun up and almost nicked under McGovern’s crossbar. The goalkeeper clutched Griffiths’ set-piece and Falkirk moved up the park.
The first two had been worthy finishes, well-worked and calmly scored, and with minimal input from the Bairns’ game-changers this season – Alston and Taylor. The two combined for the third.
Blair Alston got a fortunate bounce which fell kindly to Taylor, and the striker raced into the box. One-on-one with Ben Williams, he booted at the keeper’s foot, but Alston had followed in and swept into the unguarded net.
Then the Hibs fans left their seats.
It had been a pulsating first-half and ended with a decent Griffiths’ header easily claimed by McGovern.
Lyle Taylor had squandered another great chance for Falkirk when one-on-one with Ben Williams but the 27-goal striker booted straight at the goalkeeper rather than put his side 4-0 up and out of sight.
Hibs went with a front two for the second half, yet Falkirk opened as they had finished the first, only without the early goal. That came for Hibs after they weathered five minutes of pressure by the Bairns before pulling one back
It nearly came from Grifftihs – in a hat-trick of chances on 50 minutes. First, infront of the Edinburgh fans, he saw a shot from close-range pushed onto the post by McGovern, then another blocked by Stewart Murdoch and yet another deflected over by Darren Dods.
The deficit was reduced on 52 minutes when Alex Harris sent a rocket into the top corner from 25-yards and the Hibees should have had a penalty when Stewart Murdoch toppled Tim Clancy. They got one later though. The Falkirk goal then led a charmed life, with Hibs prolifigate infront of it.
Sub Eoin Doyle blazed a great chance over, and another header from four yards was nodded over by Griffiths. When Jay Fulton passed the ball straight to Doyle, even then there was no shot on McGovern as his through ball to Griffiths was read by Jonny Flynn and shepherded out.
But the luck only lasted so long as Stewart Murdoch was penalised in the box for a foul on Dean Handling. It gave Griffiths a free strike at goal, which was blocked by McGovern, then the rebound from Doyle blocked by the prone goalkeeper.
Conor McGrandles pulled his thigh muscle and motioned to the bench and before the Bairns could replace the youngster with Sean Higgins, Griffiths had reduced the deficit further with a tap-in by the time the Bairns’ in-form forward was introduced.
Hibs had the bit between their teeth and it was too much for Falkirk who had given so much so early, a moment of genius by Griffiths chested the ball to Doyle and put the substitute one-on-one with Dods who had been colossal for 83 minutes. The Bairns captain was back-tracking and Doyle unleashed a low piledriver from more than 20 yards to beat McGovern and forced extra-time.
Again the interval seemed to change the game with Hibs far from the team which had dominated the second half and the opening 15 minutes of the additional time was an even affair, and even after the changeover Falkirk still seemed to be holding on for penalties with Sibbald constantly calling for the ball and playing in Thomas Grant time and again, as the youngsters showed no fear on the big stage. Sky Sports and BBC Sport were relaying pictures of the Bairns across Britain, and the world, and they did themselves proud. But tehy won’t be back on screens next month in the final, because of the wonder-strike with wicked swerve from 20 yards that left Griffiths’ boot, beat McGovern, and sent Hibs into the final.
Lyle Taylor was given one last chance to force the match to penalties with a minute to go but couldn’t capitalise and Ben Williams made a good stop one-on-one to gather the striker’s shot.
Gary Holt said he was “proud” his players, and that though they had been defeated, his team “were not losers” after they had given so much, especially in that breathtaking first half.