Falkirk were being tipped to belie their First Division status and eject Hibs from the Scottish Cup at the quarter-final stage.
Alex Totten’s side had deservedly acquired a reputation of being the maestros of the knockout competition, but they found their SPL hosts in uncompromising mood at Easter Road and they throughly deserved entry into the last four.
It was almost inevitable that Russell Latapy would play a central role for Hibs, just 24 hours after his belated and unexplained return from international duty with Trinidad and Tobago.
Latapy fashioned the opening goal out of nothing in the 25th minute with a brilliant strike from the fringes of the penalty box. Taking a pass from Franck Sauzee, the Caribbean midfielder steadied himself before placing a brazen drive along the turf which crept between the diving Myles Hogarth and the left-hand upright.
However, it was the Brockville side who unexpectedly hit back, crafting an equaliser from a set-piece which silenced the capacity home following. A free-kick from David Nicholls out on the right swerved dangerously into the home penalty box and found the feet of Andy Lawrie, who gratefully prodded the ball past Nick Colgan and into the net.
Hibs, bidding to lift the Scottish Cup for the first time in 98 barren years, were not knocked unduly out of their stride and with Latapy moving freely behind Mixu Paatelainen and Kenny Miller, they continued to press forward against their guests. The Finn’s intelligent downward header caused momentary confusion among the Bairns’ rearguard, their indecisive clearance falling short to the eager Miller. The Scottish international-to-be had plenty of time and space to set his sights and he placed a drive which crept through a sea of legs and fractionally to the right of Hogarth’s post.
The hosts were not to be denied the half-time lead, though, and were awarded a penalty two minutes before the break. Latapy again was both creator and executioner, hitting a menacing cross from the left which Pat McGinlay rose to head goalward. Referee Willie Young adjudged that the former Celtic midfielder had been unfairly restrained by the retreating David Hagen and he pointed to the spot. After Kevin Christie had been booked for dissent, up stepped the Calypso Kid again to send the Falkirk goalkeeper the wrong way with a venomous spot-kick.
The Bairns’ attempts to restore parity grew increasingly desperate, and a sequence of long-distance strikes began to rain upon the hosts’ goal, none managing to find their intended target.
McGinlay ensured that Falkirk’s cup dreams were formally extinguished with a third for Alex McLeish’s men in injury-time. The Hibs man was released by Latapy’s assured pass from midfield and he sped forward to produce a shot which Hogarth brilliantly parried for a corner. But he was not to be denied, and when Latapy returned the ball to the danger area, McGinlay pounced between his markers and headed the clinching score in off the post.
Hibs made it to the final, beating Livingston 3-0 but Celtic beat them in the final by the same score.