Karim Ait Fana put the visitors ahead early in the first half, but the hosts fought back, with goals from Julian Draxler and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar putting the Royal Blues on course for victory. Yet there was a final twist, as the visitors - down to ten men - equalised late on to snatch a point.
After throwing away a two goal advantage to draw 2-2 against Fortuna Düsseldorf last Friday, Schalke coach Huub Stevens made four changes to his starting line-up. Youth was very much in the Dutch tactician's thinking, with Atsuto Uchida, Marco Höger, Teemu Pukki and Draxler all coming in to the first eleven. It proved to be an inspired move, as the latter two in particular caused the visitors problems early on.
However, it was Montpellier who took the lead when Remy Cabella was allowed to venture forward unchallenged. The midfielder found Ait Fana on the right-hand edge of the area and the forward took a touch before curling a superb effort into the top corner. Undeterred, the hosts continued to push forward and Draxler went close but dragged a shot narrowly wide after Pukki's clever through ball. The youngster made amends shortly afterwards though, rounding Geoffrey Jourdren to slot home following Huntelaar's slide-rule pass.
Not content to have pulled level, the hosts continued to attack and created several chances. The guests appeared confused and unable to cope with Schalke's new attacking formation, especially with Huntelaar dropping back to a deeper role than usual, freeing up space for Pukki and Draxler to exploit with their pace. Only a succession of last-ditch tackles prevented the Royal Blues from going ahead.
That soon changed after the interval, although it was a bitter-sweet moment for Schalke. Draxler skillfully wove his way through four Montpellier defenders on the edge of the area, only to be hacked down from behind by Garry Bocaly with just the keeper to beat. Draxler was forced off after injuring his wrist in the fall, while Bocaly was deservedly shown a straight red card. Despite missing from the spot in Schalke's previous Champions League match against Olympiacos, Huntelaar stepped up to rifle in the ensuing penalty.
With a numerical advantage, the home side went for the kill and Huntelaar very nearly grabbed his second of the evening with a superb first-time volley from the edge of the area, but Jourdren was able to tip the Dutchman's effort around the post. However, Stevens' men subsequently slowed the pace of the game, as they sought to protect their victory.
In the closing stages Schalke again went close when Ibrahim Afellay struck a powerful drive from the edge of the area, but Jourdren was equal to it. Huntelaar missed from close range with only the keeper to beat and they were made to pay for their carelessness when Souleymane Camara struck in the last minute to deny the hosts all three points. Schalke are second in the standings after Arsenal beat Olympiacos 2-1 in the group's other fixture.
Schalke: Unnerstall - Uchida, Höwedes, Papadopoulos, Fuchs - Neustädter, Höger - Pukki (Farfan 66'), Holtby (Barnetta 84'), Draxler (Afellay 55') - Huntelaar
Montpellier: Jourdren - Bocaly, Yanga-Mbiwa, Hilton, Stambouli - Sahi - Belhanda (Tinhan 68'), Estrada (Marveaux 68') - Cabella, Camara, Ait Fana (Congre 55')
Goals: 0-1 (Ait Fana 13'), 1-1 (Draxler 26'), 2-1 (Huntelaar, pen. 53'), 2-2 (Camara 90')
Sent off: Bocaly (52')