The ex-Celtic midfielder’s priceless finish snatched a point in the dying seconds of a cut-throat battle of wills in Dingwall.
Pavol Safranko’s 12th goal of the season after just 12 minutes looked to have been enough to re-ignite the Championship title race and take the points margin down to only two.
The Slovak’s left-foot strike might have been worth its weight in gold to the Tangerines but injury-hit Ross County showed remarkable never-say-die spirit to remain five points clear at the summit with a game in hand.
A strong and superbly-organised United side were able to sit tight on the lead and frustrate the leaders for long enough after the early opener.
With two previous wins apiece this season in all competitions, United’s dream scenario collapsed at the death.
United had enjoyed six days’ recovery since losing at home to Queen of the South and opened with intent. The breakthrough was only 12 minutes in the making.
From a Scott Fox clearance, County’s Andy Boyle and Lewis Spence dithered in possession and Ian Harkes won it and exchanged passes with Paul McMullan. Harkes’ through pass then released Pavol Safranko inside the left of the box and, from an angle, the Slovakian thrashed a fine shot past keeper Fox.
Two minutes before the break, a tremendous Safranko pass found McMullan, who fed Pawlett from a clever slipped pass. Eight yards out, the ex-Aberdeen and MK Dons attacker should have scored but Fox blocked superbly with his leg.
Just after the hour, County’s Mullen forced a desperate punch from Siegrist, but immediately on the break United’s McMullan fired just over the bar.
It might have been all over for County as McMullan wriggled free to the right of the box and whipped a tremendous angled shot off the far post after 78 minutes.
County spurned a dream chance to level with five minutes left as the ball was sent back from the byline by Graham but Mullen, eight yards out, dragged the ball wide.
Incredibly, four minutes into stoppage time, County dealt the hammer blow. Substitute Gardyne battered the ball across, and Ross Stewart teed up Lindsay for a thumping finish to leave United shattered.