Caley Thistle claimed an impressive 3-2 victory against title-chasing Ayr United at Somerset Park to return to the Championship promotion play-off places.
Inverness raced into a three-goal lead within the opening 18 minutes, with Nathan Austin’s double and a crisp Liam Polworth strike putting them into a commanding position.
Although Ayr pulled back second half goals through Declan McDaid and Lawrence Shankland, Caley Jags held on firmly to return to fourth place, moving them to within three points of third placed Dundee United.
Inverness made two changes from the side which drew 2-2 at Falkirk on Saturday, with on-loan Hearts teenager Anthony McDonald making his first start and George Oakley also recalled in place of Jordan White and the injured Aaron Doran. Goalkeeper Mark Ridgers was once again sidelined with a back problem, meaning Cammy Mackay continued between the sticks.
Inverness could have fallen behind after just 60 seconds, with McDaid cutting back for Robbie Crawford who looked to have sidefooted home but for an outstanding late block by Brad Mckay.
Inverness responded well however, with Oakley presented with a shooting chance from Liam Polworth’s flick on but unable to keep his effort down.
Caley Jags took the lead on eight minutes, with Austin latching on to Polworth’s pass before bearing down on goal, and although defender Michael Rose did well to block his initial effort, the challenge only served to tee up Austin to tap into the empty net.
Austin was in clinical mood to double Caley Jags’ advantage four minutes later, with Rose’s stray pass caught in the wind and sitting up for Austin to play a neat exchange with McDonald, before rounding Ross Doohan and slipping into the empty net.
It got even better for Inverness when they claimed a third goal on 18 minutes, as the ball broke for Polworth to drill home a powerful low strike from 25 yards following good work from Oakley.
Ayr came close to pulling a goal back before the interval, with Rose nodding McDaid’s corner off the post, while Mckay once again provided a crucial block to thwart Ross Docherty, and goalkeeper Mackay also doing well to tip Michael Moffat’s strike over.
Ayr grabbed a lifeline on 54 minutes however, with Jamie McCart stumbling to allow half time substitute Lawrence Shankland in on goal, before the attacker squared for McDaid to lash home.
Shankland drilled home a free kick on 84 minutes to set up a nervy finish, however Caley Jags held on for the points, with Ayr substitute Aaron Muirhead nodding over from point blank range in a late let-off for the Highlanders.