Aberdeen recorded their first ever win in Dingwall tonight and returned to fifth place in the Premiership with it.
The Dons always looked the likelier to take the points, however, the decisive goal was delivered fortuitously via the boot of County defender Paul Quinn after a wicked cross from Niall McGinn.
That was perhaps the story of the night – the Dons asked more questions than Ross County did.
This game was never going to be a classic, however. Spectators could have been forgiven for considering it doubtful as they made their way there, given the relentless rainfall across the Highlands throughout the day.
However, they would have been reassured by the Victoria Park surface, although visibly wet, admirably avoiding saturation.
County made just one change from the side that drew 2-2 with St Mirren in their previous game, with skipper Richard Brittain – due to undergo surgery on a foot injury – replaced by Martin Woods, who made his first start for the Staggies.
Jim McIntyre handed the responsibility of captaincy to Paul Quinn in just the former Motherwell defender’s third appearance for the club.
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes kept faith with the side that saw the Dons into the League Cup semi-final with a 1-0 victory over Hamilton last week.
Both sides took time to adapt to the wet and slippery conditions, with the first chance of note falling to the visitors, as Adam Rooney’s header from Shay Logan’s cross forcing Mark Brown to make a fine near post save.
At the other end County showed early promise in possession, however long-range efforts by Filip Kiss and Michael Gardyne were harmlessly off target.
Another headed effort brought a second smart save from Brown on 21 minutes, with the former Caley Thistle keeper stooping low to thwart Ashton Taylor’s effort from Niall McGinn’s free-kick.
Although there was plenty water on the pitch, possession had lacked fluidity from both sides in the first quarter of the game. However as the first-half wore on Aberdeen began to show comfort on the ball in their hosts’ half, with Rooney just failing to get enough contact on Jonny Hayes’ zipping cross to trouble Brown.
The impressive Hayes displayed some more mesmerising wing play moments later, but found no takers following up his deftly lofted cross.
Despite the Reds’ increasing domination, County nearly caught them off guard on 39 minutes when Gardyne’s cross picked out the head of Quinn, whose effort drifted marginally past the post.
The final chance of the first-half happened in almost identical fashion at the other end, with Rooney’s dummy setting up McGinn to return the favour with a floated delivery, with the former Caley Thistle forward’s header drifting just wide.
Some neat play at the start of the second-half between Woods and Yoann Arquin saw the latter released into a promising crossing area, but his cut-back was hacked clear by Taylor.
The visitors continued to put their stamp on the game however with Hayes continuing to threaten, once again sending in a dangerous ball that Darren Barr did well to clear under close pressure from McGinn.
However the breakthrough came for the Dons on 56 minutes. Scott Boyd’s misplaced clearance was pounced upon by McGinn, whose drilled cross was met by defender Quinn desperately trying to get contact on the ball having been aware of Rooney’s presence behind him, but only succeeding in hacking beyond goalkeeper Brown.
Aberdeen immediately pursued the issue of a second goal, with Logan’s low shot lacking the power to test Brown, while on 62 minutes a drilled low free-kick by Hayes that clearly emanated from the training ground was just missed by Pawlett.
McIntyre rang the changes in search of a response from his side, bringing on Joe Cardle and Jake Jervis for Woods and Arquin.
The Dons were inches from a second when Logan’s low cross found Pawlett, who set himself up with a neat touch to take the ball wide of his marker before his thunderous shot cracked off the top of the crossbar.
However as long as it remained 1-0, County were always in the game, with Liam Boyce coming on for Gardyne in their final throw of the dice before nearly making an immediate impact. Graham Carey’s driven low shot forced Scott Brown’s first save of the night, but Northern Irishman Boyce hacked the rebound well over the bar.
With the rain having eased, McInnes’ side continued to apply pressure as they looked to alleviate any lingering doubts over the destiny of the points, with Pawlett shooting over from 16 yards.
County saw a late glimpse when Jervis turned well on the edge of the box before shooting low into Brown’s grasp.