Caley Thistle were below par in losing to Dunfermline and missing a chance to further cement a place in the Championship play-off places.
Inverness got away with a slack first-half display at East End Park, with the hosts only marginally better, but the Pars’ opener through Joe Thomson two minutes after the break put John Robertson’s men on the back foot.
The Highlanders finished strongly but it was attacking intent which had been lacking for most of the match.
The performance was a far cry from their impressive Highland derby display on Monday, allowing Pars boss Stevie Crawford his first win in charge.
Inverness were forced into three changes from the side denied a Scottish Cup triumph by Ross County’s late blow. Liam Polworth dropped out with a knee problem, while Coll Donaldson and Sean Welsh were left on the bench with tomorrow’s replay against the Staggies in mind.
Charlie Trafford and Shaun Rooney were drafted in, while there was a first start for winger Darren McCauley.
It proved a short-lived one for the former Coleraine player, with John Robertson opting to withdraw him after just 33 minutes after he narrowly avoided a second yellow card in quick succession.
How Inverness would cope without Polworth was of interest to Caley Jags supporters. The midfielder had been an ever-present prior to Saturday and, with his contract up for renewal in the summer, his absence is one they may have to get used to.
It was a largely flat attacking display.
Following a tentative start from both sides, the Pars began to create danger. On-loan Aberdeen attacker Bruce Anderson led the line after a debut goal against the Staggies.
Inverness seldom put the hosts’ goal under threat, with their only first-half attempt coming midway through the opening period when Tom Walsh sent a speculative long-range effort well wide.
Robertson was forced to take action on 33 minutes when McCauley, just eight minutes after collecting a booking, was fortunate to avoid a second from referee Steven Kirkland for a challenge on Connolly, with the Caley Jags manager opting to bring on Anthony McDonald in his place.
The hosts looked far likelier to claim a breakthrough and it came two minutes into the second half, with Thomson’s powerful strike from the edge of the box deceiving Mark Ridgers as it trickled through the goalkeeper’s grasp and into the net.
A looping Joe Chalmers free-kick forced Ryan Scully to tip over on 84 minutes, in the goalkeeper’s first serious intervention.
However, Inverness’ best chance of the match fell to Mckay moments later, when Walsh’s delivery was diverted into his path, but he lashed his first-time effort over from just eight yards.
It was too little, too late, however, with Inverness now focused on getting the better of County at the second attempt in tomorrow’s replay, for the opportunity to face Dundee United in the Scottish Cup quarter finals.