County's European ambitions over
Ross County's Europa League hopes were ended when they went down 2-0 to Motherwell in the penultimate Clydesdale Bank Premier League game of the season at Fir Park.
Chris Humphrey was the main man for the SPL runners-up, setting James McFadden up for the opener in the seventh minute before doubling the Steelmen's lead seconds before the interval with a superb solo goal.
Amid some steady pressure from County after the break, McFadden missed a great chance to make it 3-0 but that would have been barely a true reflection on a game in which little went right for the Highlanders.
County go into the last game of the season next week against Inverness four points behind and with only local pride to play for as Terry Butcher's side and St Johnstone, who host the Steelmen, battle it out for the last European spot.
Part of Stuart McCall's recipe for success this season has been consistency of selection and he made only one enforced change as Stuart Carswell replaced Henrik Ojamaa, who was suspended after being sent off against Inverness last week.
County kept the same 11 which started in the 1-1 draw with Celtic in their last outing with Steffen Wohlfarth leading the line.
In a miserable afternoon in Lanarkshire, the visitors started brightly and with clear intent to keep possession but were undone in Motherwell's first real attack of the game.
Humphrey scampered down the right wing and when his pass reached the back post Fir Park favourite McFadden confidently steered the ball past Staggies keeper Michael Fraser from 10 yards.
It was sloppy defending by County but they responded by putting Well on the back foot and in the 16th minute skipper Richard Brittain ended another fine move by driving just wide of the target from 25 yards.
Minutes later County left-back Evangelos Ikonomou nutmegged Tom Hateley on the left wing and put in a terrific ball across the home side's six-yard box but found no takers.
There was then a scare for the home side in the 36th minute when defender Shaun Hutchinson's sloppy pass was intercepted by Iain Vigurs who quickly sent Ivan Sproule racing through on goal.
However, the Northern Irishman's touch was too heavy which allowed Well keeper Darren Randolph, captain for the day, to smother at his feet inside the box.
It was the visitors' desire to get level just before the interval which lead to them conceding a second.
From a poor County corner, Humphrey picked up the ball inside his own half and raced down the line chased by Vigurs and when the pacey Motherwell wide-man realised he was not going to be caught he drove into the box and slipped the ball past Fraser.
Randolph made a decent save from Ikonomou's low drive amid a frenetic start to the second-half by County.
Derek Adams' had to reshuffle his side, though, 10 minutes after the break when Brittain, who has signed a pre-contract with St Johnstone, was carried from the field on a stretcher after falling awkwardly as he tried to tackle Humphrey at the edge of the box, to be replaced by Mark Fotheringham.
County continued to push for the goal that would keep their European hopes alive with Fotheringham driving over the bar from the edge of the box in the 65th minute to end another promising move.
Martin Scott and Paul Lawson gave way to Gary Glen and Alex Cooper as Adams went for broke and the home side were reduced mostly to defensive duties as the Highlanders swarmed around their penalty area.
However, more fine wing play by Humphrey in the 76th minute saw him stand the ball up at the back post for McFadden but the former Everton forward managed to head the ball over from barely a yard out, albeit under pressure from a couple of dark blue jerseys.
Moments later, a cross-cum-shot from Sproule glanced off the Motherwell crossbar before speeding away from danger.
But the Highlanders eventually ran out of belief as it became clear it was not going to be their day.