DUNDEE United’s hopes of claiming an instant Ladbrokes Premiership return hang in the balance after being held to a 2-2 draw by play-off rivals Falkirk.

Ray McKinnon’s Tangerines were twice ahead in their semi-final first-leg clash at Tannadice as Simon Murray and Blair Spittal both struck.

But equalisers from James Craigen and Joe McKee will give Falkirk belief ahead of Friday’s Westfield return.

It was the hosts who came out looking refreshed as they took the game to Peter Houston’s men.

Murray turned Luca Gasparotto inside out but fizzed his strike a couple of yards wide while Tony Andreu failed to get enough power behind the ball from 12 yards out.

However, United’s perseverance paid off after 16 minutes as Murray put them in front.

There was little subtlety to the goal as Cammy Bell launched a punt forward. Thomas Mikkelsen climbed above Peter Grant and nudged the ball into Murray’s path, with the frontman finishing first-time.

But instead of trampling on Falkirk further, the Tangerines allowed their opponents to grab a foothold on 27 minutes.

Craig Sibbald took advantage as Wato Kuate slipped, finding Nathan Austin. The striker did well to hold it up before finding Joe McKee, whose cross was turned into the net by Craigen’s acrobatic effort.

Bell then had to scramble to push away another Craigen effort as Falkirk finished the half on top.

But United landed a beauty of a sucker punch on 59 minutes.

Mark Durnan found Murray with an early ball forward but, when the former Arbroath man was crowded out on the edge of the Falkirk box, he did not panic as he instead sprayed the ball wide to Spittal.

The youngster set himself with a touch then drilled past Robbie Thomson as he found the far corner of the net.

The lead, though, lasted just six minutes as the Bairns were awarded a free-kick chance 25 yards out after Willo Flood’s trip on Austin. McKee got plenty of bend on his strike and the ball flew over Bell and into the net.