There's doing things the easy way, there's doing things the hard way and there's doing things the Partick Thistle way. Once again the Maryhill Jags put their supporters through the ringer at the end of a Premiership play-off tie, but there was a very different ending on this occasion.

Kris Doolan's men seemingly had their Premiership play-off quarter-final tie with Airdrieonians in the palm of their hand after Brian Graham netted his second goal of the evening two minutes after half-time, giving them a 4-2 aggregate advantage in front of a frenzied Firhill crowd.

But there soon came a haunting sense of deja vu after Arron Lyall pulled a goal back within minutes. Though the bouncing John Lambie stand continued to sing in defiance of the nerves surely being shredded throughout the home end, the team was pushed back deeper and deeper as Airdrie threatened to 'do a Ross County' and end Thistle's season in heartbreaking fashion.

"Second half, we tired a bit. Airdrie are always going to throw everything at you but I thought we defended really well," Doolan, whose side will face Raith Rovers in the semi-final, told the BBC. "We hopefully learn lessons from last year. Our players are excited."

Airdrie looked impressive in the early going as the midfield three played with poise and dynamism, knocking it around a surprising passive Thistle trio in the engine room. An up-and-at-them approach expected of the hosts was lacking from their play until, suddenly, it wasn't.

Once the opening 15 minutes were over, Thistle started pressing with a real hunger and intensity. Suddenly they were regaining possession in Airdrie's half and putting the visitors on the back-foot. And, unlike Airdrie at the other end, they soon found their reward.

Kerr McInroy's through ball was flicked to himself by Fitzpatrick and his low cross found Graham, who netted from close range as Firhill erupted around him. Replays would show the goal perhaps should've been ruled out for offside, but Rhys McCabe refused to fall back on an easy excuse. "I haven't seen it back but I'm not an advocate of VAR. It's not the reason we lost today," the away manager said afterwards.

Airdrie seemed like they'd been caught in the rope-a-dope. Allowed to move the ball about in the early going, they were suddenly guilty of overplaying it in the midfield on several occasions as Thistle turned up the heat.

The selective approach to pressing then reverted back as Thistle sought to soak up pressure. Again, Airdrie got the ball in advanced areas on occasion but didn't do anything with it.

Considering how Airdrie had failed to lay a glove on their hosts in the opening period, it looked like the game was over as a contest less than two minutes into the second half. McInroy won back possession outside the Airdrie box – though this wasn't so much about pressing as it was Craig Watson hitting his attempted clearance right off him – enabling Scott Robinson to cross for Graham who scored with a cool-as-you-like flick underneath goalkeeper Robbie Hemfrey.

They say 2-0 is a dangerous lead (Thistle aren't exactly fond of three-goal leads either) and so it proved when the home side allowed their opponents back into the tie just moments later. It was an excellent run from substitute Lewis McGregor, but questions must be asked of how he got so much space between the home defenders. That mistake was then compounded when Aaron Muirhead's weak headed-clearance landed at the feet of Lyall, who swept it into the back of the net.

Suddenly it was Airdrie who had real zip to their play and the hosts' penalty area was soon under siege. It wasn't quite one-way traffic for the rest of the encounter, as Thistle did have opportunities on the counter, but the Jags certainly had to sweat for their route into the semis. 

The heart-in-the-mouth moment arrived when Airdrie won a corner in the 86th minute after Muirhead touched a McGregor shot wide. From the resulting corner the ball broke to assistant player-manager Callum Fordyce, who thundered his effort off the crossbar from close range. The thwack of woodwork being struck was immediately followed by an almighty roar, but none more so than when Colin Steven, at the end of seven long minutes of injury time, mercifully blew the full-time whistle.

Airdrie players slumped to the ground, dejection taking over as they realised their  campaign was now over. Thistle's heroes went to celebrate in front of a joyous home crowd. Together they've taken another step on the road to redemption.