Ross County retained their top flight status by beating Partick Thistle 5-4 in a pulsating penalty shoot-out, after a stunning comeback in 90 minutes.
Kris Doolan’s travelling Partick Thistle side looked to have promotion wrapped up commanding a three goal advantage with only 20 minutes left of normal time, after Aidan Fitzpatrick’s strike added to the Jags two goal lead coming into the tie.
However Yan Dhanda’s penalty, followed by a quick fire Simon Murray strike, set up a nail-biting finish before George Harmon struck a minute into injury time to level the tie.
After a tense period of extra time, it came down to penalties where Josh Sims proved to be the hero netting the winner to keep Malky Mackay’s side up.
VAR had a major say in proceedings first denying Partick Thistle a penalty before awarding Ross County a spot kick of their own and sparing Keith Watson from a straight red card as the hosts kept their full quota on the park.
County didn’t manage a shot on target in the first leg but they wasted no time in making their ambitions clear when a deep cross was spilled by goalkeeper David Mitchell, Staggies forward Jordan White was unlucky not to get a clear sight of goal with the rebound.
Partick midfielder Kyle Turner then turned shot-stopper when he headed Ben Purrington’s header off the line with 25 minutes gone, as the Championship side kept their hosts at bay.
Kris Doolan’s men then almost extended their two goal first leg advantage as Scott Tiffoney found space on the right hand side, before dragging his shot across the 6-yard-box beyond Ross Stewart’s far post.
Thistle then had a penalty shout waved away late in the half, after referee Nick Walsh conducted a lengthy check of the VAR monitor before concluding that Ross Docherty’s clash with Nohan Kenneh didn’t warrant further action.
The visitors did grab the lead before the break however, thanks to a well taken finish from winger Aidan Fitzpatrick. The lively Tiffoney delivered a low ball into the box where Fitzpatrick found the composure to take a touch before dispatching a measured finish beyond Stewart.
First Jordan White and then Alex Samuel passed up golden opportunities either side of half time to give Ross County a lifeline in the tie but the hosts eventually got a goal back when they were awarded a penalty with 20 minutes remaining.
VAR spotted a handball by Brian Graham in the area and after a consultation with the monitor, Nick Walsh gave Yan Dhanda the chance to convert from the spot where he made no mistake.
Before Partick Thistle could catch their collective breath they had conceded again, this time through substitute Simon Murray.
The forward, who for half the season turned out for Championship Queens Park, came back to score against the Jags once again as he turned an Alex Samuel cross in from close range.
VAR was to be involved again before the 90-minutes was out after Keith Watson was shown a straight red card for the hosts.
The defender lunged in on Scott Tiffoney who was advancing towards the County goal, however the decision overturned was after another check of the monitor.
In an afternoon of twists and turns there was to be more drama as Ross County got their third of the afternoon, drawing them level in the tie as 9 minutes of injury time was announced. George Harmon found himself free at the back post from a deep cross, before unleashing a low strike beyond Mitchell to sink the hearts of the travelling support.
With over 100 minutes of football played on the day, the sides couldn’t be separated as the tie ploughed on into extra time.
Substitute Stuart Bannigan had the best opportunity inside the 30 minutes, only for the Thistle midfielder to blaze over from close range after some excellent hold up play from Brian Graham.
The tie was to be decided on penalties and it came down to Josh Sims to score the deciding spot kick as Ross County maintain their top division status.