Peter Houston made a halftime intervention in the blackwalled away dressing room and ensured St Mirren were black-balled.
Ian Murray, his opposite number, raged Peter Grant did not see red, but Paisley was navy blue on Saturday night as the beaming Bairns outshone the Buddies after a second half which will live long in the memory of the 600 or so Falkirk fans who had headed to Paisley.
The home side led for more than half of this game. Falkirk held the lead for half a minute, but took all three points, thanks in no small part to the actions of the interval and John Baird’s last minute goal.
Few could have predicted the outcome at half-time when the Bairns had looked so flat, but Lee Miller – one of the colourful characters in the Falkirk dressing room – changed all that. His linkup play simply brought the Bairns together.
The Bairns were turning the air blue. Only David Smith can emerge with any sort of credit from the first 45 minutes, and things could have been worse had John Beaton not shown extreme leniency in booking Peter Grant rather than sending him of.
Saints’ boss Ian Murray raged about the official’s decision to keep the game 11-on-11 when the defender swiped down Paul McMullan from behind on the edge of the area, and all but ended the youngster’s afternoon. He was substituted five minutes later having made an attempt to continue.
At that stage Falkirk were a goal down, and Grant’s booking came back to haunt them when he was forced to give Stevie Mallan easy passage into the box for fear of seeing red. The midfielder had stolen the ball from Paul Watson and Mark Kerr’s mix-up and beat Danny Rogers from 12 yards.
The goalkeeper had already conceded, allowing a Scott Agnew corner in the second minute to sail through his arms and into the net via a cluster of bodies in the goalmouth.
Just a long-throw-in from Greenhill Road is a set of football parks known in Paisley as ‘The Racecourse’. Falkirk were playing along the road at St Mirren Park, and they were simply not at the races.
It was an abject first half. Something had to change among the lifeless Bairns. Miller was the difference. Falkirk began to fight fire with fire.
Miller gave Sean Kelly and Andy Webster a physical presence to contend with because John Baird was being out-muscled and out jumped for the entire first half. Miller barely gave the ball away and in his hold-up play, and flick-ons, he created more in his first ten minutes than the Bairns had mustered in the entire first period. His team-mates revelled in their new-found energy and were rewarded with a dramatic swing in momentum almost as soon as the second half started.
Craig Sibbald was unfortunate to be denied by two good saves from Jamie Langfield early on, but they weren’t denied for long as David Smith tried to pick out Sibbald for third time lucky. The cross was too far for the midfielder but perfect for Luke Leahy to loop a backpost header in and give the Bairns hope. Feeding off that they sought an equaliser and Tom Taiwo was crudely barged by Scott Agnew in the box and John Baird levelled from the spot against his old side.
The game was all with the Bairns who hardly missed Mark Kerr, thanks to Ryan Blair, his replacement who showed terrific composure in a pressure situation of only his second top team appearance.
Blair’s set-piece deliveries created more chances for Falkirk but none were taken and a valiant comeback for a point was almost settled for, until Smith cut back for Baird to tap in the winner three minutes into injury time and send the Navy Blue Army home happy, second place, and unbeaten.