Match ends, Inverness CT 1, Ross County 1.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1-1 Ross County
Alex Schalk's late equaliser for Ross County denied Inverness CT a derby victory, but Richie Foran's side still move off the bottom of the table.
Visitors County had the better of the first half, although Caley Thistle's Iain Vigurs fired off the crossbar.
Midfielder Greg Tansey put the home side into the lead three minutes after the break with a shot that took a big deflection off Marcus Fraser.
But Schalk broke into the box before firing into the far corner of the net.
It means that - after two 3-2 defeats - Caley Thistle have yet to win a Highland derby this season.
However, Foran's side inch ahead of Hamilton Academical, who lost away to Rangers, on goal difference, with County a further four points better off in ninth.
The value of Schalk's late equaliser can't be underestimated.
County were in reverse gear in terms of their league position until that moment and looking in store for a relegation fight.
Schalk showed incredible composure in a pressure moment to deliver a vital strike of real quality that changes the complexion of County's situation quite significantly.
The striker had gone close in the first half after great work from Jason Naismith but was inches away from tapping home.
He also had a very strong claim for a penalty under David Raven's challenge that was waived away.
It had seemed like Craig Curran's incredible miss with a header from six yards would be so costly.
However, Schalk stepped up tough to hand a real hammer blow to Inverness that must have felt like defeat.
See it out
Foran described this match as "must-win". They almost did, with a blistering opening to the second half the inspiration.
County helped their cause by failing to clear their lines, the ball was squared to Tansey and he got his shot on target.
It was fortunate in that a deflection completely wrong-footed Aaron McCarey in goal.
It was almost two within a minute when Carl Tremarco stole in at the back post but couldn't direct his header on target.
Tansey went close again with a free-kick, then a long-ranger, before Billy Mckay hit the bar from close range, an effort that would have ended the match.
Their second-half application was strong. They balanced aggression with composure but crucially failed to see it out.
Once the dust settles
It's still all to play for for both sides.
Inverness have been picking up points but do need to convert positions like they held in this game into wins.
They have gained ground on Hamilton and still have their fate in their hands.
County will breathe a huge sigh of relief as defeat would have dragged them right into it.
They have opportunities to pull away but need to find more consistency in this run-in.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager Richie Foran: "Billy Mckay's hit the crossbar. Carl Tremarco had a great chance. We dominated half an hour of the second half.
"When County scored, it feels like a defeat, but flip that around. We're a point better off than we were before the game.
"It's a very, very good performance. Disappointing not to get the three points.
"There's still nine games and a lot of points up for grabs. Results went our way as well. We wanted to win the game and were unfortunate not to.
"We need to be picking up the three points at home, but we dust ourselves down and go again.
"The second half gives us huge confidence. We play like that, we'll win most games."
Ross County manager Jim McIntyre: "It was the least we deserved. The referee has got to give a penalty on Alex Schalk. That's disappointing.
"We said to the players at half-time we'd done so much well, but we knew Inverness would probably get a rocket and come out all guns blazing. They had a good period in that second half.
"Goals change games. It gave Inverness that lift for 10-15 minutes. We had to weather the storm.
"We've come back into it. Craig should score. We put so much into it and the way it's been going recently, it's easy to feel sorry for yourselves.
"We never. We dug in and I felt we finished the game really strongly.
"Other results have went for us. Every team from sixth down is in a relegation battle."
- 25Fon Williams
- 3TremarcoBooked at 88mins
- 11VigursSubstituted forPolworthat 42'minutes
- 23AnierSubstituted forEbbeat 90'minutes
- 3NaismithBooked at 52mins
- 28van der Weg
- 4RoutisSubstituted forO'Brienat 78'minutes
- 7GardyneSubstituted forLalkovicat 80'minutes
- 11CurranSubstituted forDowat 85'minutes
- Crawford Allan
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Inverness CT 1, Ross County 1.
Foul by Ryan Dow (Ross County).
Gary Warren (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Ryan Dow (Ross County) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left.
Attempt missed. Dean Ebbe (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right.
Substitution, Inverness CT. Dean Ebbe replaces Henri Anier.
Corner, Ross County. Conceded by Jamie McCart.
Carl Tremarco (Inverness CT) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Jim O'Brien (Ross County) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Carl Tremarco (Inverness CT).
Goal! Inverness CT 1, Ross County 1. Alex Schalk (Ross County) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the top left corner. Assisted by Kenny van der Weg.
Substitution, Ross County. Ryan Dow replaces Craig Curran.
Carl Tremarco (Inverness CT) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Jason Naismith (Ross County).
Corner, Ross County. Conceded by Owain Fon Williams.
Attempt saved. Milan Lalkovic (Ross County) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.
Substitution, Ross County. Milan Lalkovic replaces Michael Gardyne.
Foul by Louis Laing (Inverness CT).
Craig Curran (Ross County) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Substitution, Ross County. Jim O'Brien replaces Christopher Routis.
Billy McKay (Inverness CT) hits the bar with a left footed shot from very close range.
Attempt saved. Greg Tansey (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.
Corner, Ross County. Conceded by Jamie McCart.
Gary Warren (Inverness CT) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Craig Curran (Ross County).
Attempt blocked. Alex Schalk (Ross County) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Foul by Greg Tansey (Inverness CT).
Alex Schalk (Ross County) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Liam Polworth (Inverness CT) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Michael Gardyne (Ross County).
Corner, Ross County. Conceded by Ross Draper.
Billy McKay (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Christopher Routis (Ross County).
Attempt missed. Christopher Routis (Ross County) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the left misses to the right.
Corner, Ross County. Conceded by Gary Warren.
Attempt missed. Craig Curran (Ross County) header from the left side of the six yard box is close, but misses to the left.
Foul by David Raven (Inverness CT).
Michael Gardyne (Ross County) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Ross Draper (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the attacking half.