Bob McHugh rose from the bench again to leave Hibs dazed by a stunning Falkirk fightback at Easter Road.
Falkirk were on the ropes but a stunning rally inspired by captain David McCracken’s header and sealed by another from sub Bob McHugh keeps the impetus in the second-place race with Peter Houston’s side.
They should have been dead and buried. In the first half they rushed, they lacked composure and were a goal behind. That deficit doubled in the second half when they were down to ten men, but Peter Houston HAS a side for the big occasion, and they set up a grandstand finish despite going behind to a Jason Cummings double.
It was an incredible finale to a game of significance in the league and the sides battled for it, picking up seven yellow cards and a red. Crawford Allan had a handful keeping the lid on matters but when the dust settled Falkirk were the happier of the two sides. They had gone two goals down and a man down and STILL Falkirk charge on in the Championship.
Craig Sibbald was very lucky to avoid censure for a late lunge on Fraser Fyvie, and Taiwo was cautioned for contesting a bouncing ball with Stokes. Marvin Bartley was booked for a nasty looking challenge on Myles Hippolyte and just before the break John McGinn was shown a yellow for a late tackle and subsequent pushing match with Luke Leahy and John Baird, with David Gray also involved.
the action started in earnest. Danny Rogers had to be alert and push out a John McGinn free-kick that evaded everyone in the box and threatened to sneak inside his post. Taiwo had been penalised for pulling back ex-Bairn Stokes on the edge of the box and it was an accumulation of fouls, and a costly booking that saw the little midfielder hooked at half-time.
By that stage though the Bairns were one behind and they gifted it to Hibernian. David McCracken and Danny Rogers’ communication breakdown proved costly with the captain knocking a reverse header back to the keeper, but nodded past and Jason Cummings stepped in to roll his side in front from a couple of yards.
Hibs’ tails went up and Falkirk began to rush their possession, which as a result didn’t last too long. One passage which did, with Taiwo, Sibbald and Baird involved before the latter won a corner was a rare moment of composure from the Bairns who needed a more passive attitude.
They were battling though and the tackles were flying from both sides. As the corner Baird won was cleared it sparked a Hibs counter only stopped by Aaron Muirhead taking one for the team and halting Stokes’ run and picking up a booking before the break.
Lee Miller’s introduction, for Taiwo, gave Bairns more strength in attack, and he almost slid in the equaliser from a drilled Vaiulks cross that was inches away from being tipped over the line by the ex-Hearts man.
Bob McHugh came off the bench and almost scored with his first touch, racing in on a Luke Leahy cross to volley – but Mark Oxley blocked with his legs. Falkirk were shooting into their fans who backed the Bairns in great number and voice, even at a goal down.
But they were flattened by Muirhead’s red card for a late trip on McGinn which cost him the last 15 minutes of the match, and forced Blair Alston back to the right-back slot.
Worse was to follow for the Bairns as David McCracken was penalised for an push at the backpost with Paul Hanlon contesting a corner and Jason Cummings slammed the spot-kick high and beyond Danny Rogers.
He redeemed himself with five minutes to go, rising highest - and unchallenged – to head the Bairns back into the game. There was still hope, and the away support roared their side to the whistle.
They were rewarded for their efforts and their turnout. The equaliser came from a cleverly won throw-in by Will Vaulks. He took it himself and launched the ball into the box. Lee Miller flicked on and no-one was picking up the run of McHugh and he powered the ball into the net to spark wild scenes in the packed away end.
The draw maintains the six point gap between second and third, but Hibs have two games in hand over the Bairns, who are certainly proving they are players for the big occasion.