Gary Caldwell hailed his battling Partick Thistle stars after they earned themselves a place in the Betfred Cup quarter-finals with a 3-2 win over Ross County - claiming it was their BEST showing since he joined.

A barnstorming extra-time after the regulated 90 saw three goals scored after a poor show in normal time.

Steven Saunders bagged himself the winner at Firhill with 10 minutes to go against the Premiership opponents.

And Caldwell heaped praise on his lads for fighting for everything on the pitch.

He said: "I'm absolutely delighted with the performance.

"We worked on being a more aggressive team and I thought the boys were outstanding.

"That was, since I've been at the club, the best game we've had in terms of playing on our terms.

"It was the most fouls we've gave in a game and that's a good thing.

"It means we're getting close to people and putting teams under pressure.

"The fans feed off that."

Liam Fontaine cracked a header off his own cross bar from a Thistle corner early doors before Ross Draper had a goal-bound header nodded off the line.

Veteran Kenny Miller looked dangerous andhad a strike that was well held by Ross Laidlaw between the sticks for the Staggies.

The former had another chance when he hared in behind the backline but his shot was snuffed out.

A poor first-half was outdone in the second when Blair Spittal volleyed a stunning opening goal beyond Fox.

Steven Saunders half-cleared a cross before Spittal pounced.

The home side battled and probed and eventually found their equaliser through Miller.

Strike-partner Alex Jones found him with a cutback and he swept home.

Extra-time wasn't a few minutes old when youngster James Penrice curled a wicked free-kick into the back of the net to hand his side the lead for the first time in the match.

Ross Laidlaw will have been fuming with his own failure to push the ball clear - only succeeding in slapping in via the post.

County's fourth sub of the game after the restart slotted home the leveller with time running out before Steven Saunders' header won the tie.

Co-manager of the visitors, Steve Ferguson, admitted his disappointment at the defeat.

But after a terrific start to the season, he refused to criticise his players.

He said: "The players are hurting.

"We saw it as a brilliant opportunity to get to the latter stages of a cup. The players were trying but it just wasn't to be."