The scale of Celtic celebrations at the moment of an equaliser in the third minute of added time from Kris Commons highlighted their relief. Fifteen seconds of stoppage time remained when Commons sent the visiting support, and dug-out, into raptures. On the overall balance of play, Celtic fully deserved to take a point from their first Scottish Premier League visit to Dingwall. But how they were made to scrap for it.
Ross County, whose unbeaten league run now sits at 37 games, are due enormous credit for their showing against the reigning SPL champions. Just 18 years ago, County were a Highland League team; this marked their third game in the top flight.
Celtic arrived in the north of Scotland without a clutch of influential players; they were within seconds of departing with a bloody nose. "I'm upset at the chances we missed," said Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager. "We were pedestrian at times, but we missed good chances, easy chances. We should have won the game, but we were sloppy in front of goal."
Lennon's clear mitigating circumstance here was the enforced absence of James Forrest, Scott Brown, Anthony Stokes and Gary Hooper. Without that quartet, Celtic lacked drive and attacking impetus for long spells.
The manager can only hope to have more selection options for Tuesday night's Champions League playoff first leg in Helsingborg. Against County Thomas Rogne was the only recognised first-team outfield player among the Celtic substitutes; Lennon indicated he had 11 squad members unavailable.
"I'm happy the squad is deep enough, it's just the situation we're in at the minute," he said. "To get through this game unscathed injury-wise and with a point I suppose you've got to be happy with that.
"We should have Scott, Gary, James and Paddy McCourt training on Sunday. Gary had a scan on a hamstring yesterday and that wasn't anything too severe so he'll be okay for Tuesday."
Stuart Kettlewell, who went on to excel in the County midfield, passed up a glorious early chance to send the hosts in front. He headed wide after an excellent Marc Fitzpatrick cross.
Georgios Samaras looked the most likely to open Celtic's account although Victor Wanyama also headed a Commons corner against the County crossbar.
Richard Brittain claimed County's first SPL goal with a strike fully deserving of such historic status. The captain fired a wonderful, angled free-kick into the top corner of Fraser Forster's net after Charlie Mulgrew had fouled Mark Corcoran. Seconds later, Celtic were denied what looked a decent penalty claim as Samaras was upended.
Brittain struck the bar with a long-range attempt as the hosts looked to double their advantage. Celtic's finest chances fell to Samaras and Beram Kayal but when both went unconverted, the sense grew that this may be the occasion of another Scottish football upset.
Commons ensured otherwise. In a swift Celtic break, Wanyama fed the substitute Tony Watt. Michael Fraser, the County goalkeeper, spilled Watt's subsequent shot right to the feet of Commons. With the goal gaping, the ex-Derby County man could not miss.
"There were three minutes of added time and I don't know where those three minutes came from," said Derek Adams, the County manager. "We didn't make any substitutions and there were no injuries in the second half. Maybe the referee will tell you why there was three minutes. I doubt it, though."
For all Adams may have a legitimate point, if his goalkeeper had held on to the ball, such an issue would be irrelevant.