There was fresh succour for Stuart McCall's men in Dingwall after an anxious second half, but home manager Derek Adams felt it might have ended otherwise.
The margin of defeat was agonising for the home side yesterday as the quest for a win stretched to seven matches.
In battering rain, John Sutton's early double and Melvin De Leeuw's reply only told part of the story. Sutton's deflected opener came just after a Richard Brittain free kick crashed of the bar, and agonising close calls were a big feature of the second half for the Highlanders.
But as the dust settled County were embedded in the play-off spot and Motherwell's European aspirations were back on track.
"We totally dominated. With the chances we created, we obviously deserved to win," Adams said. "We battered Motherwell and should have won by four or five today.
"That's disappointing. The opening goal straight after we hit the bar is the kind of thing that has happened to us this season."
County's recent run had been painful, with luck deserting them at times but errors were much to blame. If there was solace from this defeat the home team did look more solid and creative.
The hosts began encouragingly enough. Keith Lasley caught Graham Carey outside the Motherwell box after 13 minutes to tee up a free kick for Brittain.
Motherwell immediately surged upfield and John Sutton's strike from outside the box deflected wickedly off a County player to beat the unlucky Michael Fraser.
It was the Fir Park side's first goal in three visits to Dingwall and County seemed shell-shocked.
Twelve minutes later on the right side outside the box, Henri Anier took a speculative dig low through the home defence.
Fraser did well to push the skidding effort away, but the rebound fell perfectly for Sutton to head his second of the game and eighth of the season.
Adams made a tactical switch soon after, with Marc Klok sacrificed for a striker in the shape of Kevin Luckassen. He was quickly in on the action and his header from a Brittain cross had to be saved by Dan Twardzik.
County's Scott Boyd had to pull off a good block as the prowling Henri Anier struck from the left side of the box.
County were fired up after the break, with a breakaway by Luckassen stalled by a trip from Stuart Carswell, who was booked. A Ben Gordon run on the left led to a strike by Rocco Quinn's, but it was blocked by Twardzik and hacked to safety.
Just after the hour Luckassen won the ball from Iain Vigurs on the right and his cross found fellow Dutchman De Leeuw rising to smash home the header.
Eight minutes later, Brian McLean must have thought he had levelled with a header only for the linesman's flag to go up.
Stuart McCall saw it very differently from Adams. "Lucky? We controlled large parts of the first half," he said. "They threw everything at us second half. It was probably a tale of two halves and the first-half performance got us the victory. I wouldn't say it was lucky, more hard-fought."