The Darvel dream finally came to an agonising end as ruthless Falkirk took a wrecking ball to their Scottish Cup fairytale.

It wasn’t quite the stuff of nightmares, but the West of Scotland side, Scottish football's darlings since toppling Aberdeen, found a last 16 hurdle against the League One Bairns one too many to clear. Another capacity crowd descended on Recreation Park, this time with a touch of expectation to go with the boundless hope.

But Michael Kennedy’s team were left with a mountain to climb when two quick-fire goals from Gary Oliver and Calum Morrison left them with a mountain to climb. Ian McShane pulled one back thanks to a freakish error from keeper PJ Morrison, but the underdogs were dealt a hammer blow as Chris McGowan was sent packing for two bookable offenses.

Reeling from that body blow, Falkirk added three more via Liam Henderson, Aidan Nesbitt and Craig McGuffie to bring a cruel end to Darvel’s date with destiny.

Recreation Park buzzes again

Regardless of how this 90 minutes panned out, that same air of magic that hung over Recreation Park when Aberdeen came to town was immediately apparent again. Around 3000 packed their way into this tiny ground, the one road into Darvel jampacked long before kick-off.

The town’s main street remained lined with the same bunting that welcomed the Dons to town. Inside the ground, the terraces were lined several bodies deep; electric again, but this time with an added expectancy, generated by what their team had already achieved.

As with last time, it was a pleasure to bear witness to, even if their team couldn’t produce a result to match.

Minutes that mattered

The 19th minute will forever be etched in Darvel history, thanks to Jordan Kirkpatrick’s iconic strike against Aberdeen. But in a cruel twist of fate, it was where it all began to unravel for them here.

Craig Truesdale, their best outfield player in the last round, succumbed to a knee injury he’d been trying desperately to run off.

The midfielder had barely taken his seat on the bench when his team-mates found themselves 2-0 down.  A sloppy pass in midfield left Darvel’s backline woefully exposed and Nesbitt picked the right pass at the right moment to send Oliver through for a cool finish.

There were only 15 seconds between kick-off and Morrison striding through for the second. His finish was calm, but the pass through from Henderson, bent expertly around the Darvel backline, laid it on a plate for the winger.

They were a few minutes that seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, but were ultimately where this cup tie was decided. The three goals which followed McGowan’s dismissal were harsh, but typical of Falkirk’s ruthlessness on the night.

Darvel dreams extinguished

And so concludes one of the most captivating Scottish Cup stories of our time. It was always likely to end in heartbreak eventually, but how Darvel would’ve loved to ride the wave for just that little bit longer.

When Ayr United were plucked from the quarter-final hat to tee up a potential Ayrshire derby, you wondered if an upset had again been written in the stars. As in the last round, however, Darvel were in need of just about everything going their way.

Losing their most creative outlet in Truesdale was a bitter blow, and he left a void that others could not quite fill. When the disappointment wears off, this club – and town – will reflect on a quite remarkable few months.

Darvel have made their ultimate ambition cracking the SPFL, and in some years they may look back at this cup run as being a landmark moment in their quest to do so. Their profile has risen immeasurably, and they will hope that can lead to boosts in attendances, sponsorship and provide a selling point in attracting an even higher calibre of player.

Whatever happens next, they’ll always have Aberdeen.

Falkirk handle the hype

You’d forgive Falkirk for feeling a little neglected in the build-up to this, given how Darvel have dominated the coverage. In truth, they probably preferred it that way.

McGlynn’s side were left alone to go quietly about their business, and the performance they produced here was a thoroughly professional one. Much like Aberdeen, they will have been all too aware that the media frenzy that once again descended on this tiny pocket of East Ayrshire did not do so in hope of a comfortable victory for the favourites.

But Falkirk were all too happy to embrace their role as villains in this piece. Morrison, after rolling in the decisive second, eyed up the hostile home crowd with a glint in his eye before raising finger to his lips. It could just as well have been aimed at all us neutrals who spent the week hyping up Darvel.

Underdog will still have its day

Fitting, given what the Scottish Cup has served up this season, that there will be a team out with the Premiership gracing Hampden for the semi-final. It’s an arena usually reserved for the big guns, who saunter in at the third round when everyone else has been battling away for months already.

Darvel, and the lower league compatriots in Drumchapel United and the University of Stirling, have helped light up this competition, so it’s only fitting that an underdog will have its day at the national stadium.

Granted, Falkirk and Ayr are clubs with long histories in the senior game – but should they find themselves up against the likes of Celtic, Rangers or Hearts, the neutrals will have another odds-defying hopeful to get behind.