Falkirk had their wings clipped by Inverness Caledonian Thistle on a chilly night in the Highlands.
This was a heavy dose of reality after the weekend dream over Dundee United and brought the Bairns crashing down.
Goals from George Oakley, Connor Bell and Jake Mulraney gave the home side an unassailable lead at half-time, but both sides traded goals towards the end the momentum enjoyed by Falkirk after a stunning weekend performance came to a halt.
Through balls were the Bairns’ downfall on a night to forget for the defence.
Ruthless Caley exploited the left on a difficult night for Tommy Robson and the injured Jordan McGhee who limped off at the end of Saturday’s roaring success. This was far from it.
Three goals down at the interval the Bairns gave Kevin O’Hara a return to first team action after his eight-match ban but the game was beyond the young striker and Rory Loy who were tasked with grabbing the goals in a dull second half.
The first began with a bang as Robbie Thomson looked to have chopped George Oakley down after the striker was played onside by Robson on the opposite wing. The striker went into the box unopposed and leapt over the goalkeeper’s smothering tactics and for many in the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium it looked a penalry - not John Beaton who correctly booked the forward for a dive.
He did find the net however just four minutes later. On 10 minutes a strike from Jake Mulraney cutting in from the Caley right-wing was pushed across goal by Thomson and the rebound tapped in by the forward.
Falkirk had gone close with a 25 yard effort from Andy Nelson, and Joe Chalmers did likewise at the other end as the ex-Bairn enjoyed a fine performance for the hosts.
Craig Sibbald should have tested Ridgers after cutting in off the right wing on the half hour but passed to Louis Longridge whose return was snuffed out as the home side began to grow in confidence.
A brilliant stop from Thomson punched away a first-tiem effort from Gary Warren at point-blank range after a pass in from the right-wing again by Mulraney found the Caley man unmarked. The stop only delayed the home side doubling their advantage by two minutes though.
The second was knocked in by Connor Bell, matchwinner here the last time the sides met in November, and followed quickly by a long-range strike from the stand-out performer of the first half Jake Mulraney.
For the Inverness second Chalmers won the ball in midfield, fed Liam Polworth and the midfielder picked his pass for Mulraney to slip into the box and he rolled across goal for the tap in by Bell.
Moments later the Bairns were down and out when Mulraney thumped an unstoppable strike in from just outside the box.
Through balls were the Bairns downfall and Paul Hartley’s attempt to stifle the threat by switching McGhee for Paul Watson strengthened the Bairns even though the ball was in the net for the home side again on 65 minutes. George Oakley’s three-yard tap in after Thomson blocked Joe Chalmers’ shot was cancelled for offside.
Hartley went for broke by switching defensive midfielder Sean Welsh with Kevin O’Hara and it did bring a chance when Falkirk went three-on-one just after the hour. Andrew Nelson advanced on the right of a three pronged attack, but after coaxing Mark Ridgers from his line his square pass for the supporting Longridge and O’Hara was cut out by the recovering Iain Vigurs.
The Bairns began to play a little better with 20 minutes to go and Lewis Kiss tested Ridgers from the edge of the box and forced a decent save.
Louis Longridge struck with five minutes to go for the Bairns and although it was a lovely chiopped finish to Aaron Murihead’s long ball, over Ridgers, it was too little too late.
Even more so when substitute John Baird headed in Coll Donaldson’s cross from close range with three minutes to go to take the wind out of the Bairns’ sails after a high-scoring weekend.