Referee Willie Collum took the focus away from a spirited match between Falkirk and impressive visitors Partick.
The official left Falkirk bemused by handing the Jags a contentious second half penalty and harshly red-carding Bairns' defender Kieran Duffie.
It spoiled a committed game from both sides and took the shine off a point for Partick that was more than merited by their play, but the tie also maintained Falkirk's unbeaten home record.
Despite the second-half controversy, the first period was one to forget. Falkirk had chances in it, but Scott Fox didn't have a save to make.
The Partick defence put a few hefty challenges in early on, particularly on Craig Sibbald and earned Scott Robertson and Alan Archibald bookings.
The majority of the play was inside the Falkirk defensive end, midway between the centre circle and penalty box.
Chris Erskine loitered there for a Falkirk corner and when Paul Cairney broke away, the striker was on the shoulder of Kieran Duffie to speed forward and receive the ball.
The shot from the edge of the box was destined to tuck inside the post, but Michael McGovern's flashing right hand pushed the ball wide.
It was a scare, but Falkirk's afternoon took a horrendous twist with a moment of football beauty from Paul Cairney.
Not only were Ross County two goals clear against Hamilton, but Thistle were ahead with a minute to go before half-time.
Mark Millar's pass out of defence was cut out by Erskine, and though the midfielder battled for the ball back his opposite number Cairney took the ball 20 yards out and delicately chipped the ball. It floated and dipped at the exact time to fool Michael McGovern who couldn't reach the ball on it's arc into the net.
Falkirk did get level seven minutes after the break when Murray Wallace's header was palmed off the line by impromptu goalkeeper Aaron Sinclair. The left-back was booked for his illeagal goal-line intervention and Millar thumped the resultant penalty down the middle to level.
More horror followed. As Kieran Duffie and Chris Erskine chased the ball out of play the Falkirk right-back tackled the Thistle player.Willie Collum raced to the scene and showed the Falkirk man - who had yet to commit a foul - a straight red card.
Thistle fans even seemed mystified at the decision jusdging by their chants, and the game began to boil over. Farid El Alagui and Alan Archibald went head to head and the mystifying decisions continued.
Rhys Bennett - on for Craig Sibbald to fortify the defence - stopped the ball as Cairney charged into the box. The Jags man tumbled over the ball and Bennett moved to clear - Collum pointed to the spot.
McGovern's save delivered a sense of natural justice to the game as Cairney was foiled by a two handed parry from Falkirk's number one.
He would later push a Kris Doohlan header onto the bar but was helpless as Aaron Sinclair's half volley zipped onto the bar and flew clear.
Falkirk now face Ross County next week with Kieran Duffie and Darren Dods out through suspension. Both will join Steven Pressley in the stands as the manager serves the final game of his four-match ban.