Caley Thistle’s attempt to pull off the great escape will go down to the wire after they delivered a superb performance to defeat Dundee in their hour of need.
Inverness fully deserved their sixth league triumph of the season, and just their second on the road, as they produced one of their best displays of the campaign to move to within a point of Hamilton Accies.
Caley Jags stormed into a commanding position early on through clinical finishes from attackers Billy Mckay and Alex Fisher, which gave Richie Foran’s men early breathing space.
The Highlanders held out and the victory means they remain alive in pursuit of Hamilton for the relegation play-off place, with a victory against Motherwell and an Accies failure to defat Dundee on Saturday enough for the Highlanders to avoid automatic relegation to the Cham-pionship.
That fate has looked inevitable for several weeks, but having already been written off, Foran and his players have shown a rugged determination to defy the odds.
Having been given hope by Ross County’s win against Hamilton Accies on Tuesday night, Inverness were firmly on their final chance.
Two victories were the requirement, with Hamilton’s seven-goal superior goal difference before kick-off meaning bridging the four-point gap would not be good enough.
Caley Jags missed the opportunity to narrow that gap when they fell to a 2-1 defeat against Kilmarnock on Saturday and manager Foran drafted in two of the substitutes who helped to spark that improvement for the trip to Tayside, with Iain Vigurs and Liam Polworth in from the start to replace Jake Mulraney and Henri Anier.
Inverness were up against a Dundee side already safe thanks to a revival under new manager Neil McCann, and it was clear from the intensity of their start that the Highlanders were the side in far greater need of the points.
Mckay charged down an early Scott Bain clearance only to send the ball wide, however the Northern Irishman was not to be denied the opening goal little more than 90 seconds into the game.
Polworth, with his back to goal, teed the ball up for Mckay, who rifled a powerful low drive into Bain’s bottom left corner from 14 yards to give his side the dream start.
It was a great show of intent.
Dundee offered a slight threat through two corners which were well defended by the visitors, but even better was to follow on 10 minutes.
Vigurs showed impressive vision to pick out Fisher’s run and the attacker took one touch before lashing powerfully past Bain on the angle from just inside the penalty box.
The visiting supporters could hardly believe their luck.
That good fortune was put to the test on 20 minutes when Dundee missed a glaring opportunity to pull one back, with Dundee captain Darren O’Dea unmarked to meet Kevin Holt’s corner but he sent his header over from close range.
Mark O’Hara also had an effort well gathered by Ryan Esson as Dundee began to increase their attacking threat, with full back Cammy Kerr shooting wide after finding his way into a promising position.
Inverness had another flurry of attempts just after the half-hour mark, with Bain doing well to hold on to Ross Draper’s header, before Fisher nodded wide moments later.
Caley Jags survived a huge let-off on 41 minutes, however, when former Inverness midfielder Nick Ross’ flick to Marcus Haber released the Canadian attacker for a one-on-one effort which Esson did brilliantly to save, with Brad McKay showing quick reactions to clear as the ball spun back towards Haber who was ready to tap into the empty net.
Inverness knew a third goal would do it for them as they began the second-half, but equally they had to be wary of a rally from a rattled Dundee, whose supporters were far from pleased with the performance.
It was the visitors who, with the security of a two-goal cushion, showed a level of composure on the ball that has been glaringly missing throughout much of the campaign, and they matched the eye-pleasing football with a desire to win every ball.
Both sides had chances to add to the scoresheet with Inverness holding out for only their third league clean sheet of the season.