Steven Naismith's flowering talent has been symbolic of the progress Kilmarnock have steadily made under the canny management of Jim Jefferies.

Last night, he bloomed with perfect timing to propel the club to within 90 minutes of its first major trophy in a decade.

Jefferies has stated that winning the CIS Insurance Cup under the persistent financial restraints at Rugby Park would outstrip everything achieved in his long coaching career to date. If he is eventually bathed in satisfaction come the final at Hampden on March 18, then he will owe the greatest debt to the young talent he has so carefully schooled.

Naismith's wonderful hat-trick left Falkirk in despair. They simply had no answer or equivalent to the 20-year-old's potent combination of technique, persistence and power.

Alex McLeish watched from the main stand at Fir Park, having selected Naismith in the pool for next week's Scotland B international against Finland. On this form, he now has 13 goals for the season, elevation to the full squad may well be next.

Kilmarnock may not yet have their hands on the trophy, but surely now they get Falkirk for keeps. This was their sixth successive victory over John Hughes's side, who failed to build upon a promising start. Their prized talent, Alan Gow, endured an evening of frustration.

Traffic congestion on the approaches to Motherwell forced a 15-minute delay to kick-off and allowed the pre-match tension to simmer a while longer in both dressing rooms. The jitters that are an intrinsic part of the semi-final experience were exhibited in long stretches of a committed yet disjointed first half.

Russell Latapy arrowed a diagonal free-kick on to the head of Jack Ross and the Falkirk captain's thumping header across goal was well clutched by Alan Combe. Then Vitor Lima seized upon a loose ball 25 yards out to whack a low shot that zipped just wide of the Kilmarnock goalkeeper's right-hand post as he stood static and concerned.

Naismith, though, began to signal his intent. He was played through the inside-left channel by Colin Nish but, having hared into the box, could only strike a bouncing shot that was comfortably gathered by Kasper Schmeichel. The combination between the Kilmarnock forwards, though, worked perfectly after 29 minutes. Nish flicked on a delivery from Peter Leven, catching the Falkirk defence square and exposed. Naismith's chest control primed the chance and he cracked a right-foot drive low and angled beyond Schmeichel. The Kilmarnock coaching staff burst on to the pitch from their technical area to bellow their delight.

There were, though, to be outbursts of a different nature between the benches before the interval. Frazer Wright was incensed at what he viewed as a dive from Carl Finnigan, Falkirk's recent attacking signing, and that was a perception shared by Jefferies and his assistant, Billy Brown.

Hughes and Brian Rice responded aggressively before the fourth official stepped in.

Kilmarnock had been forced into a first half change when Momo Sylla overstretched himself, with Grant Murray introduced to take over at right-back. They had rarely been been troubled following Murray's 33rd minute introduction until Combe sprang to the rescue with 12 minutes of the second half elapsed.

Ross dinked a teasing pass with the outside out his right foot to bisect the Kilmarnock centre-backs and send Finnigan in on goal. He had time for a touch to compose himself, but ultimately thumped in a shot with more power than precision as Combe stood strong to block at close range.

Almost immediately, that quality of that save was surpassed at the opposite end. Johnston and Nish worked together to feed Naismith and his hammer-blow of a right-foot attempt was brilliantly turned around his near post by Schmeichel.

It is clear Kasper has inherited more than a shock of blond hair from his old man's genetic stock. Peter's boy was, though, to be caught out with 19 minutes remaining as Naismith swooped decisively. The goalkeeper seemed to check out of an initial plan to charge out and intercept a long hoof upfield from Gordon Greer, the ball bouncing on the edge of the area.

Naismith, pressurised by Cedric Uras, managed a touch on his head to set up a right foot shot which he thumped into the net from 16 yards.

Six minutes later he completed a splendid personal and team triumph. Bursting between Uras and Kenny Milne, Naismith was caught by the latter and Kenny Clark, the referee, pointed immediately to the penalty spot.

The finish was as emphatic as the scoreline.