A late goal from Mark Beck 11 minutes from time has set up a Sunday shoot-out at Hamilton.
Falkirk looked exhausted as they completed their 300th minute of football in a week, but they must summon up the energy to battle an Accies side which looked fresher from the outset than the fatigued Bairns.
They were rooted to the spot when Darian MacKinnon curled in the opener on the hour mark, and had it not been for Michael McGovern in mercurial form, it could have been worse.
Shooting into the north end of the Stadium, the sun almost set on the Bairns hopes in a calamitous opening when they could have been three down within 20 minutes.
Jonny Flynn and Will Vaulks managed to tackle one another and allow Jason Scotland to scamper around them and one-on-one with Michael McGovern. The goalkeeper raced out and saved with his legs, but Scotland would again find himself clear through on the Northern Irishman, but the next time it was his countryman Flynn who recovered after being left exposed to Louis Longridge striding forward and when Scotland overlapped he went through and rounded the goalkeeper only a despairing lunge by Flynn conceded a corner and kept the ball out.
Falkirk did manage to settle however and though Mark Millar had to clear a Martin Canning header off the line and the Bairns were saved by another of John Beaton’s whistles when a stramash resulted in the ball striking the crossbar,the home side had the best chance of the first period in their increasing dominance.
As the Bairns fought back they had a strong claim for a penalty when Blair Alston’s quick-fire double strike at goal cannoned off a stray arm, but Beaton, who was over-officious with Accies’ challenges, waved away protests.
Beck had a shot on the turn which deceived but couldn’t beat Cuthbert as a deflection took the sting out of the ball but he had to be sharp to save from Conor McGrandles on 42 minutes.
A Liam Dick cross from the left was met by the 18-year-old and he looped the header over Cuthbert and as it dropped over the line, the goalkeeper pushed it back onto the bar and Martin Canning scrambled the ball clear.
The Bairns could have been 1-0 up, but they could easily have been 3-0 down and were missing Dick’s predecessor David McCracken. By half-time it was fairly obvious who had played ore than 250 minutes of competitive football in the past week and the play-off system began to catch-up with the home side.
They were flat-footed after another 15 minutes of the second half as MacKinnon was afforded far too much time and space in the box to pick his spot and curl past McGovern after a pass had deflected into his path.
Then Hamilton pitched Mikael-Antoine Curier into the mix as the Bairns defence began to look overwhelmed, but somehow this struggling team battled back.
Another intervention from Scott Shepherd made a big difference in energising the team and lightening almost struck three times as Shepherd hit the by-line and slid the ball to Beck but Canning nipped ahead of the gangly striker.
The same would happen and he’d go-one better when Loy raced into action. The former Rangers man had been quiet for the ten minutes preceding and kicked into gear and sprinted by Grant Gillespie to hit the by-line then cut back for Beck to tap into the empty net.
The Bairns support sparked to life and suddenly victory was sensed, but though the Bairns looked more confident it was McGovern at the other end who was the key late on.
He parried an Antony Andreu strike out two-handed then tipped another effort over the bar as he kept the Accies at bay almost single handedly.
He was on his toes to stop from Andreu again flying across his goal-line on the 89th minute o gather then block another late on from MacKinnon.
The Bairns fans were on their feet, the players were out on theirs but a huge effort had been rewarded and sets up a win-or-bust afternoon at New Douglas Park on Sunday.