Nathan Austin’s first Caley Thistle goal set his side on the way to a 2-0 win over Queen of the South.
The former Falkirk man struck in the ninth minute and strike partner George Oakley found the net 20 minutes later to give the Highland capital club a lead they held on to.
Inverness are now just two points behind the Doonhamers in seventh place, ahead of Falkirk coming to the Caledonian Stadium on Tuesday night.
John Robertson made three changes from the team that beat Brechin City 4-0 on Tuesday night. Connor Bell, Collin Seedorf and Riccardo Calder dropped to the bench, with Gary Warren, Carl Tremarco and Nathan Austin starting. Queen of the South made two changes from the 2-2 draw with Falkirk, bringing in Dan Carmichael and Stephen Dobbie for Derek Lyle and Dom Thomas.
A win for the Caley Jags would cut the gap to the play-offs to eight points with two games in hand, ahead of Tuesday’s home tie with Falkirk and a double-header with Dumbarton, would create some real optimism.
Austin’s early goal backed up that belief. Coll Donaldson peeled away on the left flank and while his cross was not hit cleanly, it reached Austin and he did well to bundle it past the defender before beating Jack Leighfield down the middle.
Palmerston was the scene of a contentious draw in December when Inverness felt after being stuck on the A9 for seven hours and not arriving in Dumfries until after 3am, the game should have been postponed.
Queens predictably were going to bite back and did so quickly, with Carl Tremarco needeing to be alert to clear Darren Brownlie’s header off the line. Joe Thomson had Mark Ridgers grasping at a low strike from 20 yards as the hosts pressed for a response.
But on 29 minutes Caley Thistle doubled their advantage as Polworth, collecting a half-cleared corner, swung a ball in from the left that Oakley glanced past Leighfield.
The physicality of Austin and Oakley was proving difficult for the Queens back-line and had the latter spotted a short return ball to Polworth rather than shooting himself, Inverness could have been three up at the break.
Austin could have had a second at the start of the second period but his shot from a goalmouth scramble was deflected wide. Stephen Dobbie was the only Queens threat, curling one effort past Ridgers’ near post and sending another from the edge of the box straight at the Inverness goalkeeper.
The second half was about managing the lead for the Caley Jags and they held the hosts at arms’ length. Oakley continued to dominate the Queens’ centre-backs and his persistent strength fashioned a chance for substitute Aaron Doran, however his first-time shot went over.
Donaldson’s popularity with the Caley Jags faithful continues to rise, with the travelling support showing their appreciation for his display by chanting his name for 10 minutes straight.
Doran had a further chance on the counter-attack to make it three but strayed marginally offside as he struck. It mattered little though, with Caley Thistle standing firm to take the victory.