The Germany defender nodded home from close range after Christoph Metzelder flicked on Julian Draxler's free kick after a tame opening 50 minutes in France, but a quick-fire equalizer from Emanuel Herrera was enough to earn the home team a deserved share of the spoils.
Tuesday's clash at Stade de la Mosson was always likely to be something of a more tepid affair, with both sides making wholesale changes to their lineups as their fates in the tournament were already sealed.
Indeed, it took until the 25-minute mark to carve out the first meaningful chance, and it was a glorious one at that. Some more clever interplay between Carica and Draxler allowed the latter time and space to cross for Teemu Pukki, but the Finland international somehow contrived to side foot wide with the goal at his mercy.
Both sides were struggling to seize the upper-hand on an uneven pitch, with Tranquilo Barnetta summing up the frustrations with the surface as he completely missed his kick after the ball bobbled horribly on the edge of the area, all after some more sharp link-up play between Marica and Holtby.
Draxler looked the real danger man for the visitors and almost carved out a chance for Marica after flicking the ball brilliantly past Daniel Congre, but Ligali saved bravely at the feet of the striker after he took a heavy touch following Draxler's cross.
Montpellier was searching for their first win of the competition, but it took until the 50 minute mark for them to carve open a genuine chance. Anthony Mounier latched on to substitute Roman Pitau's through ball, and after Timo Hildebrand failed to deal convincingly with the effort, Emanuel Herrera's shot was cleared superbly off the line by Atsuto Uchida.
Just a few minutes later, Schalke struck the first blow of the match. Draxler's free kick was headed down by Christoph Metzelder, and Howedes nodded home from close range to put the visitors in the lead.
Suddenly, the match had sparked into life, and within just three minutes the hosts were level. Herrera met Mounier's cross at the far post and although Metzelder blocked his initial header, he was alert to prod home on the line.
Pitau's introduction had sparked the home side into life, and suddenly the club was in control of the match. Cabella tested Hildebrand with a shot from 25 yards, before Herrera almost connected with another deep cross to prod in a second.
Schalke responded by throwing on Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, but it was Pukki who had the chance to hand his side the lead after a brilliant free kick from Holtby, but he was unable to connect and Montpellier cleared.
Pitau almost created a late winner for the home team as his cross found Herrera again, but Hildebrand got a vital touch to the Argentine's shot to divert the ball wide.
Herrera was denied again late on, with his shot disappointingly straight at the Schalke stopper after some clever footwork to create space inside the area.
Ultimately, a draw was a fair reflection of the match, as Montpellier finishes the competition at the foot of the table while the Germans progress as the group winner, just ahead of Arsenal.