A poor first 20 minutes when they conceded two bad goals gave Aberdeen too much to do as they slipped to a disappointing defeat at Dingwall.
There were two changes to the Aberdeen side that was beaten 2-1 by Rangers last Sunday. Ross McCrorie, ineligible for that game, came back into the side with Dean Campbell dropping to the bench, while Matty Kennedy, who scored after coming off the bench against Rangers, replaced the suspended Ryan Hedges. Fit again Connor McLennan returned to the bench in place of Ryan Edmondson, now back at Leeds United after his loan spell with the Dons.
Ross County made five changes from the side beaten 3-1 at Livingston last weekend. In came Connor Randall, Callum Morris, Iain Vigurs, Jermaine Hylton and Regan Charles-Cook. Keith Watson, Jordan Tillson, Stephen Kelly and Ross Draper all dropped to the bench, while Coll Donaldson missed out completely.
The pitch was looking heavy after plenty of rain and it was heavy going for the visitors, for just 34 seconds in and the Dons were behind. A sharp move forward from County was seemingly cut out by Tommie Hoban on the edge of the box but in losing his footing, he couldn't quite get the ball away. From there, Lakin worked it into the feet of Shaw who swept his shot across Joe Lewis and into the far corner.
Good football by Jonny Hayes opened County up in the seventh minute, first running into the box then getting a return ball from Scott Wright. He drove a low cross into the near post but Curtis Main could only turn his effort wide from a tight angle.
A blustery wind and a sticky pitch that was cutting up didn't make life easy for the players and though the visitors had the wind behind them, it was taking time for Aberdeen to settle to the task with County penning them in for stretches of the opening quarter of an hour.
The Aberdeen frustration was encapsulated in the 16th minute when Sam Cosgrove took a weak pot shot at goal from all of 30 yards, Laidlaw saving comfortably.
Aberdeen were opened up again in the 20th minute, a crossfield ball from Paton sailing through the box to find Lakin standing all on his own at inside-left. He scuffed his finish from a dozen yards out, but he got enough on the ball to see it bobble past the flatfooted Lewis and just inside the post.
The Dons couldn't string any kind of positive football together at this stage while looking fragile at the back when the Staggies attacked, but they finally created something worth recording in the 29th minute, Hayes and Lewis Ferguson combining to get Cosgrove to the byline. He threaded the ball through the six yard box, the ball just in front of Kennedy at the back post.
Aberdeen's problems mounted with Ash Taylor going down with a back problem on the half hour to be replaced by Shay Logan, the Dons going to a back four.
There was an opportunity in the 33rd minute with a free-kick 25 yards out, but the wall did its job, blocking Ferguson's effort out for a corner which ultimately came to nothing. A minute later, Laidlaw produced a superb point-blank save, Hayes' cross into the area dropping nicely for Kennedy on the edge of the six yard box, Laidlaw standing up to block it to safety.
Aberdeen kept up the pressure and in the 35th minute, Wright curled a free-kick from the edge of the box just wide of goal. County responded quickly, a grubber from Lakin from 30 yards skimming across the surface, Lewis tipping it past the post.
There was another terrific save from Laidlaw in the 39th minute as the Dons produced some lovely football, Wright and Main exchanging passes in the box, Wright's shot looking set for the bottom corner until Laidlaw extended a leg to put it wide. From the corner, there was a real stramash at the back post, Laidlaw again doing well to bundle away a stab at goal from Hoban. Aberdeen were exerting some real pressure at last.
There were shouts for a penalty in the 43rd minute, Cosgrove bundled over in the box by Morris, but there was nothing doing from referee Madden. There was one final chance in the half though, with a corner out on the right in added time. From Hayes' looping delivery, Hoban got a glancing header on it, Main challenging with Iacovitti for it at the back post. Iacovitti looked to get the last touch, nudging it past Laidlaw and in to give the Dons a lifeline.
HALF-TIME: ROSS COUNTY 2 ABERDEEN 1
County made a strong start to the second half, winning a couple of corners in the first minute which fortunately came to nothing, a promising Dons break also fizzling out in the opening moments. The first booking came in the 49th minute as Morris hacked down Cosgrove 25 yards from goal. Ferguson fired the dead ball along the ground and under the wall but Laidlaw saved comfortably. Wright went into the book in the 55th minute for being a fraction late on Shaw.
Aberdeen were certainly on top now, pegging County back into their own half. Charles-Cook was the next yellow card in the 59th minute as he struggled to cope with a run from Logan.
Good persistence from Kennedy created chaos in the County box in the 62nd minute, but with masses of blue shirts back to defend, Aberdeen couldn't quite carve out a clear opening, Wright coming closest with a shot that was charged down. Hayes needed treatment a minute later after a collision with Vigurs and had to make way for Kieran Ngwenya, County replacing Charles-Cook with Draper at the same time, pouring, sleety rain setting in again as the changes were made.
Another half chance in the 71st minute came when good possession ended in Kennedy having a chance to cross, the ball just behind Cosgrove giving the County defence time to clear. The hosts were succeeding in making the game a little more scrappy, chipping away at Aberdeen's momentum.
Shaw created havoc in the 75th minute, chasing after a long ball forward and hitting a first time shot on the run from the right edge of the box, the ball flashing over Lewis but also over the bar. Bruce Anderson then replaced Main in the 76th minute in the final change of the day, but Aberdeen were struggling to get anything going.
County seemingly sealed victory in the 84th minute from a Vigurs corner. Sent to the back post, Draper directed his header back across goal and towards Shaw who produced a lovely first time finish on the turn to place the ball in the bottom corner. Shaw was booked a couple of minutes later for kicking the ball away after being caught offside.
The Staggies continued to run the clock down with two minutes to go, Shaw replaced by McKay. Within seconds, he drilled a scorching shot at goal from 25 yards out that arced just wide of goal.
There was still time for County to make it four, Hylton chasing onto a long ball forward from Vigurs. Lewis came out to meet him 35 yards out but his clearance struck Hylton in the chest and rebounded goalwards, Hylton following it in to deposit the ball into the empty net.