Ross County were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw against Caley Thistle in the a Highland derby stalemate at Victoria Park.
Inverness were the dominant side in the first half, with Staggies goalkeeper Scott Fox on fine form to keep them out, and although County improved after the break there was to be no way through for either team.
Both sides had occupied the top two places in the Championship ahead of the match, however the draw allowed Ayr United to leapfrog both to the summit with a victory over Alloa Athletic.
County made three changes from the side that drew 0-0 with Queen of the South the previous weekend, with former Caley Jags midfielder Iain Vigurs, Declan McManus and Josh Mullin left out in place of Sean Kelly, Keith Watson and ex-Inverness Billy Mckay. Table-topping Caley Thistle were unchanged from the side that defeated Partick Thistle 3-2 the previous weekend.
The match began at a frantic pace, with County winger Michael Gardyne seeing a drilled delivery blocked, and Liam Polworth shooting wide within the opening 40 seconds.
It was the visitors who posed the greater threat, with derby specialist Aaron Doran calling Staggies goalkeeper Scott Fox into action with a powerful strike which forced a fingertip save on nine minutes.
County’s best chance of the first half arrived on 14 minutes when Sean Kelly’s free kick eventually broke for Watson, whose drilled ball was met by Liam Fontaine who sidefooted wide.
Inverness continued to threaten Fox however, with the Staggies goalkeeper making an excellent double save to thwart Doran’s low strike and Jordan White’s follow up.
It was a brighter start to the second period by the Staggies, with Mckay seeing an effort held by Mark Ridgers, while at the other end Polworth saw a floated effort land on the roof of the net.
Staggies co-managers Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson shook up their midfield just after the hour mark, with Ross Draper and Don Cowie replaced by Mullin and Vigurs, and County began to create more danger, with a neat move seeing Jamie Lindsay’s header from a Gardyne cross well held by Ridgers.
Ridgers had to be alert once again on 84 minutes when Mckay fed through substitute McManus, however the Caley Jags goalkeeper did well to hold the striker’s powerful effort at the second attempt.
County’s best late chance fell to Gardyne after Mckay had dummied Kelly’s threaded pass, however the winger blasted his effort over the bar from 16 yards.