A HOT-DISPUTED late Liam Boyce penalty earned Ross County a last-gasp 2-2 draw against champions Celtic in the Ladbrokes Premiership today (Sunday).
Kieran Tiernan fired the Hoops in front with a terrific first half strike, but Michael Gardyne restored parity just after the interval.
With the game on a knife-edge, substitute Patrick Roberts looked to have clinched full points for the visitors with a great piece of skill and finish with 12 minutes to go.
However, Boyce tucked away an 89th minute spot kick after sub Alex Schalk was controversially adjudged by referee Don Robertson to have been felled by Erik Sviatchenko. It certainly was a soft one, with most people seeing it as an easy tumble by the Dutch striker.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers labelled it "embarrassing" afterwards and County boss Jim McIntyre agreed it should not have been a penalty.
In stoppage time, Celtic captain Scott Brown to be sent off for a reckless challenge on Boyce as tensions boiled over following that penalty decision and the match restarting.
The league winners, for the sixth season in succession, have now wrapped up 40 domestic games without a loss on the way towards what they will hope is a treble.
The earlier games between the teams were 4-0 and 2-0 wins for the Hoops as they swept stylishly towards the title.
Celtic arrived in Ross-shire unbeaten in 13 Premiership fixtures against the Staggies, with nine wins and four draws.
Midfielder Martin Woods was suspended for the hosts, but defender and stand-in skipper Andrew Davies shook off injury concerns to make the line-up from the team which drew 1-1 at Hamilton eight days ago.
There was a starting debut for 20-year-old defender Reghan Tumilty, with Jay McEveley still unavailable, while striker Craig Curran dropped to the bench as Jim O'Brien was back from a ban.
Celtic made a few changes from the team which beat Kilmarnock 3-1 at Parkhead last weekend.
In came Sviatchenko, Moussa Dembele and Tom Rogic for Mikael Lustig, Roberts and Dedryck Boyata.
The champs were given a guard of honour by the County players as they marched on to the Victoria Park pitch.
Backed by their usual vocal visiting fans, Celtic took little time to get into their stride and Rogic fired a shot from distance past the left post.
It was patient stuff from the Glasgow giants and Callum McGregor had the first effort on target when he drew a comfortable save from Scott Fox after 18 minutes.
Moments later, James Forrest saw his shot within a packed penalty box blocked by Marcus Fraser as the one-way traffic flowed towards the Jail End.
It took 22 minutes for the Staggies to force their first corner, but it was a positive move which got the home fans finally off their seats as Boyce won it with an attack down the right side. It came to nothing in the end, but would have given them confidence.
Full-back Fraser, fresh from signing a one-year extension to his Dingwall deal which keeps him here until 2018, certainly showed confidence as he skipped past several opponents before his pass for Boyce was cut out.
However, the deadlock was broken in the 34th minute in favour of Celtic with a strike out of nothing which gave Fox no chance.
A seemingly harmless pass out to Tierney ended with him lashing a low shot past the County keeper into the net. It was a strike of real quality which put Rodgers' title winners in front.
County almost got back on level terms a couple of minutes later when Jason Nasimith headed on a free-kick and Ryan Dow's spectacular effort was easily held by Celtic keeper Craig Gordon.
Just before the break, a loose pass was picked up by Brown and his ball for Sinclair was a neat one and it took a save from Fox to keep the scores at 1-0.
County started well in the early part of the second half and they drew level on 51 minutes.
O'Brien fed the ball out wide left to Dow and his delivery was met by Gardyne, whose hooked effort beat Gordon for a terrific leveller for his first goal of the season.
It was a fine reward for Jim McIntyre's side keeping in the contest and coming back out from the interval on the front foot.
This had clearly given County the lift they were looking for as they pressed for another.
With the game all square, Rodgers introduced from the bench Cristian Gamboa, Leigh Griffiths and Roberts for Rogic, Dembele and Forrest to try and inject fresh life into his side.
And with 15 minutes to go, a 25-yarder from Griffiths was gathered by Fox, albeit not without almost letting the ball slip from his grasp.
It was another moment of magic three minutes later which looked to have sealed the win for Celtic as Roberts weaved his way into the box and guided the ball past Fox into the net from an acute angle.
However, with barely one minute to go, sub Schalk went down under what looked like no contact from Sviatchenko and referee Don Robertson pointed to the spot, despite the clear protests on the pitch and on the sidelines.
Northern Ireland international Boyce slammed his penalty past Gordon and it was 2-2.
Just after the game resumed, a full-blooded foul by Brown on Boyce saw County players slam into him in fury, but when he stood up he was sent off for the foul. He had words with the County bench before trudging up the tunnel.
So, this result means County are now three points above Dundee, who are in the relegation play-off spot and just two points adrift of seventh-placed Kilmarnock.
County return to action after the Scottish Cup semi-final weekend with their first post-split fixture at home to all-but-doomed rock bottom rivals Inverness CT on Friday, April 28.
Ross County: Fox, Tumilty (Schalk 83), Davies, Fraser, Naismith, Chow, O'Brien (Routis 85), van der Weg, Gardyne, (Franks 90) Boyce, Dow. Subs not used: McCarey (GK), Curran, Dykes, Lalkovic.
Celtic: Gordon, Simunovic, Brown, Dembele (Griffiths 63), Sinclair, Armstrong, Rogic (Gamboa 63), Sviatchenko, McGregor, Forrest (Roberts 68), Tierney. Subs not used: Bailly (GK), Toure, Izaguirre, Kouassi.
Referee: Don Robertson.