Falkirk will play Hamilton on Tuesday after an energy-sapping extra-time win over Queen of the South.
Blair Alston’s late prod over the line two minutes before a penalty shoot-out sent more than 3,500 Bairns fans wild and sent the fourth palaced team in the Championship out of the promotion play-offs.
The Dumfries side had taken a first-half lead to go 3-1 up on aggregate but responses from Rory Loy then Craig Sibbald forced the additional half-hour.
Hamilton manager Alex Neil took in most of the game and he was the real winner from the lengthy match which began to take it’s toll on both sides towards the end of the 210 minutes between the sides.
The first half of this second leg had a slightly edgy feel to it.
The Bairns had numerous opportunities to open the scoring, but, like so many times this season, just couldn’t force the ball in.
Rory Loy looked like he had been rushed back from the ankle knock that kept him out of the first leg and there was less ‘zip’ to his tireless running.
Jonny Flynn had the best of both worlds, stopping a near certain goal with a great last-ditch tackle on Danny Carmichael in the box and at the other end he had Falkirk’s best opening when Mark Beck’s header fell to the defender practically on the goal-line. The ball bounced high but Flynn shot on the half-volley and it flew over the bar with a slight deflection.
The Bairns attacking third saw the most of the ball in the first half, as did each corner infront of the north stand and its great Dumfries support. But there was no goals to speak of at that end.
The only one that came was infront of Farid El Alagui, Murray Wallace and Rhys Bennett in the south stand as Will Vaulks failed to clear and Bob McHugh latched onto the loose ball and fired past McGovrn front and centre of his goal.
The Bairns had to score a mimum of two goals to win and send the tie to at least extra-time and they managed it from the most likely, and unlikely of sources.
Rory Loy, who else, gave them the equaliser when he swiveled to stroke home a lovely cut-back from Jonny Flynn’s jink down the by-line.
Then scorer turned provider as Loy crossed on 70 minutes for Craig Sibbald to crane his neck and glance a header in off the post.
It was enough to send the tie to extra-time, though the Bairns had good fortune when a Danny Carmichael free-kick eluded everyone two minutes later and spun onto Michael McGovern’s left-hand post and the keeper smothered Iain Russell’s follow-up.
Towards the end the Bairns were running on empty and Mark Millar, so often a driving force in midfield was forced to take a sidestep from the cut and thrust after a booking for a reckless slide on McShane. Late on, it was next goal wins and Queen’s went incredibley close with a volley from Derek Young that scraped by McGovern’s post.
Extra-time began with Loy thumping a 45-yarder at Clark which almost caught the goalkeeper out but he palmed away and McGrandles couldn’t catch the rebound.
But the extra-time first period finished goal-less and the sides were 15 minutes away from penalties and it looked all set for a shoot-out.
The Bairns were tiring rapidly, McCracken, Loy, Beck, Kingsley and Millar especially and it was the latter who were replaced as both Kingsley and Millar picked up injuries within seconds of the restart and Beck was withdrawn for Scott Shepherd.
Loy could have been a candidate but powered on despite not seeming fully fit and he played a role in the winner.
He took a sore one in the face from a stray but accidental, arm by Mark Durnan, and the players turned to Murray for guidance. the ref waved play on and Scott Shepherd took the loose ball and hit the by-line as he’d done against Alloa last week and his cut-back was prodded in at the front post by Blair Alston two minutes from penalties to spark chaos in the stands.
But the tie was far from over and penalties were only spared by Michael McGovern who made an excellent two-handed parry to a Derek Lyle shot with seconds to go, and no-one could have begrudged the Doonhamers that goal and the chance in the shoot-out, but it’s the Bairns who host Hamilton on Tuesday at 7.45 p.m.