Caley Thistle took command of their Premiership play-off quarter final tie against Ayr United after securing a 3-1 first leg victory at Somerset Park.
Goals from Charlie Trafford and Jordan White saw Inverness race into a two-goal lead, however Michael Rose’s header breathed new life into the home side.
Caley Jags crucially restored their two-goal advantage through White’s penalty however, putting them in the driving seat at the halfway stage of the tie.
Inverness will now host Ian McCall’s side in Saturday’s return leg, with the winner facing Championship runners-up Dundee United next week.
Inverness made three changes from the side which won 1-0 against Dunfermline at the weekend, with recalls for Jamie McCart, Aaron Doran and Liam Polworth in place of Shaun Rooney, Darren McCauley and Nathan Austin.
Ayr enjoyed an encouraging start but the best early goalscoring opportunity fell to Inverness on 17 minutes when a neat move saw Jordan White nod a lay-off into the path of Joe Chalmers, but he could not keep his effort down from 12 yards.
Much of Ayr’s threat was coming from wide areas, with Jamie McCart forced to make an excellent headed clearance to prevent Michael Moffat from getting on the end of Daniel Harvie’s delivery.
Inverness made the breakthrough on 33 minutes, when Chalmers’ corner was met by the head of Trafford who rose unchallenged to thump past Ross Doohan.
Ayr created a decent chance to level moments later, with Michael Moffat feeding the ball into the path of Declan McDaid, who could not keep his effort on target from a decent shooting position.
Caley Jags put themselves in an excellent position in the tie by claiming a second goal just six minutes into the second half. Doran slipped the ball through for White, who showed excellent composure to drift his way through the Ayr defence before lifting the ball over the advancing Doohan to double the advantage.
Ayr threatened to pull one back, with Brad Mckay blocking superbly to deny substitute Luke McCowan’s strike, before Mark Ridgers was forced to tip Lawrence Shankland’s fizzing free kick over the bar.
The hosts salvaged a lifeline from the resulting corner, with McCowan crossing for Rose to thump home a header.
Caley Jags restored their two-goal advantage on 76 minutes however, when referee Alan Muir pointed to the spot after Mark Kerr pulled back McCart at a corner, with White stepping up to confidently plant the ball into the top corner.