Caley Thistle progressed to the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup at Ross County’s expense after penalties were required to settle their Highland derby replay at Caledonian Stadium.
After the two sides had shared a second successive 2-2 draw following 120 minutes, Nathan Austin’s spot kick ensured a 5-4 shoot-out victory for John Robertson’s men.
The result was Caley Jags’ first triumph over County in five attempts this term, and sets up a last eight tie away to Dundee United.
County led at half time thanks to Ross Stewart’s third successive Highland derby strike, however Jordan White’s header drew Inverness level early in the second half.
The Staggies looked to have sneaked it when Michael Gardyne restored their advantage midway through the second half, however White’s second leveller nine minutes from time forced extra time.
John Robertson made three changes from the side which went down 1-0 at Dunfermline on Saturday, with Liam Polworth passed fit following a knee injury, while Coll Donaldson and Sean Welsh also returned, with Shaun Rooney, Darren McCauley and Charlie Trafford dropping out.
The Staggies had rung the changes for their IRN-BRU Cup semi final against East Fife on Friday, but their starting line-up had a more familiar feel to it for the short trip to Caledonian Stadium. Scott Fox, Billy Mckay, Michael Gardyne, Keith Watson and Lewis Spence were the five players restored, with Ross Munro, Declan McManus, Tom Grivosti, Harry Paton and Daniel Armstrong dropping out.
Inverness started the better of the two sides, with Staggies goalkeeper Scott Fox forced to claw the ball away from Liam Polworth following Jordan White’s angled delivery, while Polworth also struck narrowly wide with a long-range effort moments later.
Inverness were dealt a blow on 16 minutes however when nine-goal winger Tom Walsh, who recently returned from a month’s absence with a foot injury, hobbled off with an injury and replaced by Anthony McDonald.
County took the lead on 23 minutes, following a well worked move which saw Marcus Fraser play in Josh Mullin down the right, with his delivery met by the head of Stewart who thumped home a header off the underside of the crossbar.
Caley Jags looked for a response, with substitute McDonald a particular threat for the home side, coming close to levelling with a volleyed effort which trickled just wide after Aaron Doran’s shot deflected into his path.
Inverness had goalkeeper Mark Ridgers to thank for denying the Staggies a second goal on 38 minutes, when he dived full stretch to tip Mullin’s powerful strike wide after he had been slipped through by Mckay.
Inverness started the second half brightly and claimed for a penalty on 49 minutes when Doran felt he was barged to the ground by Fraser at the far post.
The hosts did claim a leveller on 56 minutes however, with White rising unchallenged to head home Joe Chalmers’ corner.
The goal gave the home side a fresh boost, with Fox required to make a fine save low to his right to thwart Polworth’s low strike.
It proved a crucial intervention, with County regaining the lead on 67 minutes when the ball broke to Gardyne inside the box, with the winger waltzing past two Inverness defenders before powering a strike into Ridgers’ right-hand corner.
Inverness restored parity through White with just nine minutes remaining, with White drilling past low past Fox after being played in by Polworth.
It was the hosts who looked more likely to force a winner, with Mckay forced to head Carl Tremarco’s header off the line in the dying seconds to ensure the match went to extra time.
Ridgers was forced to make a low save to deny Gardyne in the opening seconds, with Tremarco coming even closer to netting a winner with an acrobatic effort which came back off the crossbar.
Penalties were needed to settle the tie, with Declan McManus seeing his effort saved by Mark Ridgers, allowing Austin to net the decisive spot kick.