Disappointing Falkirk lost more ground on third-placed Morton with a poor draw at home to ex-Bairn Ian McCall’s Ayr United.
Falkirk had a penalty missed in the first half before Peter Grant cancelled out Gary Harkins’ opener.
Too often it was hit and hope from Falkirk, by the second half it became desperate and dishevelled. Yet it had started reasonably well.
The Bairns were positive from the start, still buoyed by last week’s terrific 4-1 win away at Raith Rovers. They could have been ahead as early as the fifth minute but Myles Hippolyte sent a low squared pass well over the goal from around eight yards.
The defence had been threatened – David McCracken had to head a Scott McKenna header off the line - but it was as a unit caught ball watching when Ayr opened their account through Gary Harkins.
Peter Grant allowed the veteran free passage into the box and though Danny Rogers made an excellent stop to deny his first attempt, no navy blue jerseys were following back to stop the rebound falling to the ex-Dundee and Partick man and he blasted high into the net.
Falkirk lost their way, and their shape and claimed for a penalty when Craig Sibbald was felled by Brian Gilmour on the edge of the box. Myles Hippolyte curled the set-play around the wall but Greg Fleming tipped it out.
The Bairns got their penalty though when McHugh was bundled over by McKenna but again Fleming was a match – saving his sixth penalty of the season – this time from John Baird. However, Falkirk scored from the resultant corner.
The second half was not much improvement though Baird saw three efforts go wide in his search for his first goal since November 12, 2016.
Confusion over an Ayr United substitution led to Falkirk peppering the Ayr goal with the Honest Men making half a change. Kevin Nisbet went off, but Alan Forrest wasn’t ready to come on and play went on.