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Lawrence Shankland continued his red-hot scoring form as Hearts came from two goals down to draw 2-2 at home to Ross County.

After the controversial decision not to award the Jambos a penalty when Alan Forrest appeared to be tripped by Ross Laidlaw early in the second half, County looked on course for victory following an Alex Cochrane own goal and a stunning free-kick from Yan Dhanda.

But substitute Kenneth Vargas sparked Hearts’ fightback with a cool finish before Shankland, the cinch Premiership’s top scorer, netted his 17th of the season and his 12th in 13 matches to secure a draw that kept his team two points clear of Kilmarnock in third place with a game in hand.

Hearts boss Steven Naismith made three changes to the team that started the midweek win away to Hibernian as Stephen Kingsley, Forrest and Beni Baningime were replaced by Craig Halkett, Alex Lowry and Kyosuke Tagawa.

County were back in action for the first time since being eviscerated by their own manager following a 1-0 home defeat by Dundee a fortnight previously.

Derek Adams – hoping for a positive response to his post-match claim that former team Morecambe were “100 times better” than County – made two changes as Will Nightingale and Conor Randall were replaced by Max Sheaf and Josh Sims.

The Staggies had the ball in the net in the second minute when Ben Purrington headed home but it was ruled out for offside against Jordan White in the build-up.

The home side then enjoyed a spell of pressure as Lowry, Frankie Kent and Tagawa all threatened within the space of five minutes.

County were generally holding their own, however, and they should have gone ahead in the 19th minute when Simon Murray was released on goal but Zander Clark made an excellent save before reacting to deny Josh Sims from the follow-up attempt seconds later.

The Staggies threatened again in the 29th minute when White got himself clear in the box, but Halkett slid in to make a vital block.

Hearts boss Naismith made two changes for the start of the second half in an effort to spark an improvement, with Forrest and Yutaro Oda sent on in place of Tagawa and Aidan Denholm.

Forrest looked to have made a swift impact in the 51st minute when he was released by a pass from Shankland and appeared to be tripped as he tried to go round Laidlaw, only to be yellow-carded for diving. Replays suggested there was contact.

It proved a pivotal moment as County went ahead four minutes later when Cochrane knocked Murray’s cross into his own net as he slid in to challenge Sims on the edge of the six-yard box.

And the visitors doubled their lead in the 61st minute when Dhanda curled in a delightful free-kick from 25 yards out.

Hearts rallied, however, and substitute Vargas got them back in the game in the 71st minute when he latched on to a through ball and slotted calmly beyond Laidlaw.

Eight minutes later Shankland secured a point with a superb left-footed finish after he was teed up just inside the box by Calem Nieuwenhof.