Ross County fell victim to a Scottish Cup upset at the hands of Championship side Ayr United who triumphed 1-0 at Somerset Park.
Skipper Steven Bell’s goal put the Honest Men ahead towards the end of the first half, and although the Staggies pushed for an equaliser, Ayr held on to progress to the fifth round.
The result marks a disappointing return to action for Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson’s side following the winter break, leaving them solely to focus on their Premiership campaign which resumes at home to Hearts on Wednesday.
County drafted in new signings Coll Donaldson and Jordan Tillson from the start, with Lee Erwin also brought in to lead the line from the team which drew 1-1 with St Johsntone last time out. Ross Stewart was sidelined with a hamstring injury, while Billy Mckay and Callum Morris also dropped out.
There was little goalmouth action in a cagey start from both sides, with County’s Lee Erwin the first to threaten twice in quick succession on 18 minutes. His first chance was presented to him following a sublime cross-field pass from Harry Paton which put the attacker through on goal, however his shot was well blocked by Ross Doohan.
Erwin had another opportunity moments later from Blair Spittal’s delivery, but he was unable to keep his header down.
Ayr began to enjoy a decent spell midway through the first half, with Stephen Kelly volleying wide and Jordan Houston seeing an effort blocked.
The home side’s breakthrough arrived on 37 minutes, with Kelly’s corner picking out Bell at the near post, with the defender bulleting a header past Nathan Baxter.
Erwin threatened an equaliser five minutes before the break, when he saw a powerful low strike beaten away by Doohan.
Bell missed a fine chance to double his tally from another Kelly corner on the hour mark, but nodded his effort over from close-range.
The Staggies introduced strikers Mckay and Brian Graham in an attempt to get back into the match, with Mckay thumping a header wide after being picked out by Josh Mullin’s delivery.
County continued to push for a leveller but were met by a resolute Ayr backline, with Erwin striking over following Mckay’s lay-off, but the home side held firm.