Saturday’s defeat at Cappielow was an early warning to Ross County about how tough it is going to be to return to the top flight at the first time of asking.
The presence of Dundee United in the division for a third successive season since dropping down from the Scottish Premiership should, however, be enough of a reminder.
This was a hard-fought contest with quality chances at a premium. Then when Don Cowie broke the deadlock, in what was his first start for the Staggies since returning from Hearts, it looked like the visitors might depart Greenock with a valuable three points and maintain their perfect start to the season.
Instead they conceded almost immediately with former County player Michael Tidser producing a sumptuous strike before Bob McHugh popped up for the winner with 12 minutes to go.
The result sees County drop from top to fourth while Morton moved level on points with surprise Championship pacesetters Ayr United.
The Staggies were cheered on by a smaller band of supporters than usual after a bus carrying County fans turned back to Dingwall after being involved in an accident on the A9 in Perthshire on their way to the game.
Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson made three enforced changes from the side that went down 3-2 against Hibernian in the Betfred Cup with vice-captain Liam Fontaine, Tony Dingwall and recent signing Cowie replacing Marcus Fraser, Jamie Lindsay and Keith Watson.
They should have taken the lead after 15 minutes when an inch-perfect cross from Dingwall, deployed at right back, found Ross Draper unmarked but his header from only six yards out kissed the crossbar on its way over.
Morton had a penalty appeal waved away four minutes later when the hosts felt Cowie used an arm to prevent Gregor Buchanan’s header finding the net.
The hosts had a second, stronger appeal for a penalty turned down six minutes before the break when Ross MacLean tumbled in the area following a challenge from Draper.
The omnipresent Draper had another chance to get on the scoresheet two minutes after the restart when he got on the end of a Sean Kelly free kick.
He found the target on this occasion only for his effort to be cleared off the line by Jack Iredale.
Some slack defending from Callum Morris gifted MacLean a sight of goal but he could only find the side-netting from a promising position.
The game badly needed a goal and it finally arrived after 58 minutes when an exquisite pass from Iain Vigurs sent Cowie racing through and the former Hearts midfielder calmly stroked the ball beyond the advancing Scully to put the Staggies in front.
But the lead lasted only two minutes as former County midfielder Tidser claimed his fifth goal of the season with an unstoppable drive from 30 yards that flew past Scott Fox.
County made a change with Brian Graham coming on to face his former club with Declan McManus making way. The striker almost made an immediate impact with a downward header from Dingwall’s deep cross that was well saved by Scully.
But it was Ray McKinnon’s side who grabbed the winner with 12 minutes remaining when a Denny Johnstone flick fell perfectly for McHugh who smashed home on the turn.
Gardyne went close to levelling with a fine effort that flew agonisingly wide as time ran out on the Staggies.
MORTON (4-5-1) – Scully 7, Kilday 6, Iredale 6 (Johnstone 68), Buchanan 6, Millar 6 (Waddell 87), McAlister 7, McHugh 7, Tidser 8, Tumilty 6, MacLean 7 (Oliver 57), McKeown 6. Substitutes not used: Gaston, Telfer, Tiffoney, Bell.
ROSS COUNTY (4-5-1) – Fox 6, Kelly 6, Fontaine 6, Morris 6, Draper 6 (Mckay 82), Gardyne 7, McManus 6 (Graham 68), Vigurs 7, Mullin 6 (Keillor-Dunn 76), Dingwall 7, Cowie 7. Substitutes not used: Munro, Paton, Stewart, Kelly.
Attendance – 1,994
Referee – Greg Aitken 6
Man of the match – Michael Tidser