AS the announcement of the full-time score from Alloa was met by raucous approval from the buoyant Bairns faithful, it was hard to shake the feeling this was the defining afternoon in the race for second spot in the Scottish Championship.
For a second consecutive week, an inability to retain a lead looked destined to sabotage Falkirk’s bid to take advantage of Hibernian’s travails. Peter Houston’s side nosed in front on two occasions, through Lee Miller and Bob McHugh, only for Stevie Mallan – enhancing his reputation with each passing week – to restore parity each time with a couple of wonderful finishes.
However, Blair Alston secured a pivotal triumph in the 90th minute when he met a low cross from the excellent Miller to prod home the winner from close-range and send the Falkirk Stadium wild.
And that atmosphere was only enhanced moments later when the full-time score from the Indodrill Stadium was confirmed.
Falkirk will now boast a six-point lead over Hibs ahead of their trip to Easter Road on Tuesday, with a superior goal difference of eight. Even with the capital club’s two games in hand, the runners-up spot is now the Bairns’ to lose.
“The result from Alloa certainly does us no harm. It’s lovely to hear that – I’ll not pretend otherwise,” smiled Houston. “I think I heard the Hibs assistant [John Doolan] say they’ll finish easily in second. Well, I’m glad we’re making it tough for them.
“With the resources and the size of club they are, many people thought it would be Hibs and Rangers fighting it out. And here it is, with three games to go, a wee club like Falkirk six points ahead of Hibs.
“I don’t like going into matches looking for a draw. We will still go to Easter Road and try to win the game. The fact we kept going and got that winner speaks volumes for our character and desire to get second place.”
It took just nine minutes for Miller to break the deadlock. The former Scotland internationalist ghosted in to head home at the back-post after a Myles Hippolyte cross was inadvertently flicked on by Buddies defender Jack Baird.
Aaron Muirhead fizzed a drive wide of the post from the edge of the box, before Hippolyte saw a composed effort disallowed for offside after a remarkably tardy flag from assistant referee David Dunne.
The mercurial Mallan restored parity after 56 minutes, whipping a trademark free-kick beyond Rogers from the edge of the box.
Shaken by their ponderous opening to the second period, Houston replaced John Baird with McHugh and the former Motherwell youngster excelled in the role of super-sub, scrambling home from close range.
Mallan levelled matters again, converting a low Lewis Morgan cross but,showing admirable character, Alston netted in the dying embers following excellent work from Miller.
“I was delighted with the spirit and the manner we competed in the second half,” said Buddies boss Alex Rae. “But undoubtedly we could defend the third goal better.”
Miller 9; McHugh 70; Alston 90
St Mirren 2
Mallan 56, 82