Muirhead (4 pen), Nelson (18), Jakubiak (30) – Harkins (90+1)
Morton suffered a hugely disappointing defeat away at Falkirk on Saturday after conceding three goals in a nightmare opening 30 minutes.
Aaron Muirhead, Andrew Nelson, and Alex Jakubiak found the net as Paul Hartley’s reinvigorated Bairns side surged into a comfortable three-goal lead.
Midfielder Gary Harkins scored an injury-time consolation to reduce the deficit but the contest was setlled long before then, with the damage inflicted in the first half hour effectively putting the game out of reach.
When the Ton last visited the Falkirk Stadium, back in November, they recorded a thrilling 3-0 win with nine of the same starting 11 that took to the field at the weekend.
The only changes to that side that triumphed were the inclusion of Michael Tidser at right midfield and John Baird through the middle in place of the injured pair of Ross Forbes and Robert Thomson.
Yet, the performance was such that it seemed as though an entirely different side had taken to the field for the return visit, falling behind after just four minutes.
The penalty was awarded for a clear Ricki Lamie trip on impressive Sunderland loanee Nelson. The Ton centre-half protested his innocence but referee Euan Anderson was in no doubt.
Defender Muirhead assumed responsibility and slammed an emphatic spot-kick into the top-right corner past Derek Gaston to fire the Bairns in front.
The visitors offered a spirited but all too brief reponse, with Michael Tidser sizing up a shot and attempting to bend the ball around Conor Hazard. The effort lacked precision, though and the keeper caught comfortably.
Ironically, it was during a period of Ton pressure, specifically a corner, that the Bairns launched a lightning and lethal counter-attack in the 18th minute and scored their second.
Striker Jakubiak held up a clearance and directed a cute backheel into the path of Louis Longridge, who then slipped Nelson in on goal down the inside-right channel behind the retreating Ton rearguard.
The loan star’s pace and movement was terrific, but the finish was even better, as he slowed before dinking a cool finish over goalkeeper Gaston and into the net.
Things went from bad to worse on the half hour when another of Falkirk’s loan stars, Watford’s Jakubiak, added a killer third.
The forward was afforded too much time and space on the edge of the box in order to pick his spot, placing a low shot past Gaston and in off the right post to take his tally to six goals in nine appearances.
It was as poor a first-half performance that the team have put in this term, and only the woodwork and their shot-stopper prevented them from going in further behind.
On 39 minutes, Nelson weaved his way into the box off the left and nonchalantly scooped the ball up over Gaston. Fortunately, the ball kissed the face of the crossbar and skimmed clear to safety.
The defence were growing increasingly hesitant in the face of Falkirk’s self-assured strikeforce, and Jakubiak had them on the backfoot again one minute later, unleashing a low drive that Gaston plunged to parry.
Cappielow gaffer Duffy refused to make any personnel changes, later stating that he wanted the players who got the team into the situation to show the character to get them out of it, but did change his system at the break.
Winger Scott Tiffoney, one of the few players to gain pass marks from the Ton boss on the day, was pushed forward to make up an attacking trident in a 4-3-3 formation.
And they made a bright start to the second period, right-back Michael Doyle slipping Andy Murdoch in down the inside-right channel within a minute of the restart.
The energetic midfielder burst onto the ball and drilled a low shot at the near post. Hazard was equal to the effort, though, and blocked with his feet before collecting.
If the Sinclair Street side were to have any chance of scaling the mountain that was a three-goal deficit, that shot would have really had to have hit the back of the net.
There would be no further Bairns goals in the second 45, and shot-stopper Gaston had a lot to do with that, preventing Ryan Blair, Jakubiak – twice – and substitute Sean Welsh from adding a fourth.
Morton finished the game on top, with former Falkirk forwards McHugh and Baird both testing Celtic loan goalkeeper Hazard in the closing stages.
In the first minute of stoppage time, Harkins met Tidser’s inswinging corner with a powerful downwards header that bounced inside the left post to net his eighth goal of the campaign.
Despite reducing the margin of defeat, it was little consolation, however, on an afternoon in which the outcome was effectively decided before 30 minutes had elapsed.
6. Doyle 4. O’Ware (c) 5. Lamie 17. Russell
12. Tidser 3. Murdoch 14. Harkins 15. Tiffoney
11. McHugh 18. Baird
Subs not used: 7. Oliver, 16. Strapp, 21. Langan, 25. Ross, 26. Iredale, 20. Brennan (gk).
Booked: Murdoch (57), Harkins (90+2).
Falkirk (352): Hazard; Muirhead, Grant, McGhee; Tumilty, Sibbald (Welsh, 83), Longridge (Kidd, 68), Blair (McKee, 75), Robson; Jakubiak, Nelson.
Subs not used: Taiwo, Loy, Watson, Thomson (gk).
Booked: McGhee (41), Blair (67).
Referee: Euan Anderson
Attendance: 3,874 (344 away fans)
Images: David Bell