It will need to be a fantastic Friday night in Falkirk for Dundee United if they are to reach the Premiership play-off final.
The Tangerines were held 2-2 by the Bairns at Tannadice in the first leg of the semi-final and now the return game beckons, with Peter Houston’s side the favourites to go through.
United will have to dig deep but they will still fancy their chances at the Falkirk Stadium.
Simon Murray put them ahead on 16 minutes with a fine strike after a terrific flick-on by Thomas Mikkelsen but James Craigen levelled for the visitors on 27 minutes.
The hosts fell out of the game after losing that goal but Blair Spittal’s fourth counter in five games – Murray laid it on for him – edged them ahead again on 53 minutes.
Just six minutes later, though, it was all square once more thanks to a stunning freekick from Joe McKee and that was how it stayed despite the Bairns having a goal chalked off and United’s Mikkelsen being denied at the death.
For the third game in a row, the Tangerines had named the same starting line-up.
The only changes were on the bench, with Sean Dillon and Alex Nicholls occupying the seats vacated by Coll Donaldson and Ali Coote.
The Bairns also kept the faith with their players, naming the same side that started their last league match at Dumbarton.
It was a beautiful, sunny night as Tangerines’ goalkeeper and captain Cammy Bell led the team out with the cheers of the 7,000-strong crowd ringing in his ears.
This was part three of what United hope will be a six-part drama that ends with them back in the top flight.
However, it was Falkirk who looked the brighter team in the opening minutes and Aaron Muirhead had a 20-yard shot that was well covered by Bell.
There was a major injury blow for the home team on eight minutes when right-back Stewart Murdoch had to come off after a challenge from Nathan Austin and was replaced by Dillon.
United tried not to let that affect them, though, and two minutes later Tony Andreu’s shot from 25 yards had to be saved down low by keeper Robbie Thomson.
Just seconds later, Murray bobbed and weaved his way towards the box before unleashing a strike that wasn’t too far away.
They had stepped up the pace and Andreu had a snap-shot that went into the ground before being gathered by Thomson on 12 minutes then a Spittal cross flew right across the face of the Bairns’ goal.
The tide had turned in the game after a good start by the visitors and it was no surprise when United took the lead on 16 minutes.
It was the M and M duo that proved to be sweet for the Tangerines.
Bell kicked the ball upfield and Mikkelsen won on a header that left Bairns player Luca Gasparroto floundering. As the ball fell into his path, Murray kept his composure before slamming the ball into the far bottom corner for his 17th goal of the season.
Murray fired wide after showing great skill to take down a long pass from Wato Kuate on 26 minutes but the Bairns were level just a minute later.
It was Craigen who got on the end of McKee’s cross from the right and scooped his 10-yard volley into the net with Bell beaten.
The home goalie then had to push a Craigen shot around the post on 37 minutes after Murray had a shot blocked at the other end.
The Tangerines had looked like a bag of nerves after conceding the goal, with the Bairns finishing the first half as they started it.
United needed to up their game after the restart and, with 53 minutes gone they took the lead.
Murray was the provider this time, going on a mazy run towards the box before playing in Spittal to his right.
The midfielder, just as he had at Cappielow in the quarter-final, hit his angled shot crisply and it sailed past Thomson from 16 yards.
However, the Bairns bounced back again and,
On 59 minutes, Flood conceded a freekick in front of the George Fox Stand.
Up stepped McKee to blast home the set-piece, with questions asked of United goalie Bell as he was beaten from 25 yards.
United brought on Charlie Telfer for Kuate and Falkirk introduced John Baird for Lee Miller, both on 63 minutes.
Murray, who had been his team’s top performer, had a chance on 71 minutes when he cut inside from the right but he didn’t have enough oomph in his shot and it was easily saved.
The Bairns, who had brought on Tom Taiwo, had the ball in the net on 79 minutes but, to United’s relief, sub Baird’s header was chalked off for offside against the striker.
The hosts gave Paul Dixon a runout with 10 minutes to go, replacing Robson, as they tried to regain the lead.
In the final minute, United almost clinched what would have been a vital third when Telfer’s cross was headed goalwards by Mikkelsen but Thomson was there to produce a fabulous save.
Dundee United: Bell, Durnan, Spittal, Murdoch (Dillon 8), Edjenguele, Flood, Kuate (Telfer 63), Mikkelsen, Andreu, Robson (Dixon 80). Subs not used: Zwick, Dixon, Fraser, Nicholls, Allardice.
Falkirk: Thomson, Leahy, Muirhead, McKee, Kerr, Sibbald (Taiwo 75), Grant, Gasparotto, Austin (McHugh 80), Miller (Baird 63), Craigen. Subs not used: Rogers, Hippolyte, Aird, Watson.
Referee: Bobby Madden.