Coll Donaldson’s header 10 minutes from time gave Caley Thistle a 1-1 draw against Ayr United and a 4-2 aggregate victory in the Premiership play-off quarter-final.
It was a tense and competitive second leg in the Highlands thanks to Ayr’s early goal but Inverness stood firm before Donaldson’s vital goal put the tie beyond the Honest Men at Caledonian Stadium.
The first goal was always going to be important in this second leg following Caley Thistle’s 3-1 win at Somerset Park on Tuesday and the all-important goal went the way of the visitors in the 19th minute, seconds after Jordan White had seen his effort saved by Ayr goalkeeper Ross Doohan.
Lawrence Shankland created it, starting a break with a superb cross-field pass into the path of Declan McDaid who picked out the onrushing Luke McCowan on the edge of the six yard box and the 19-year-old beat Mark Ridgers with a fine first-time effort.
Inverness responded with a White shot from the edge of the box which was comfortably saved by Doohan but it was clear Ayr fancied their chances after getting back into the game.
The second half was every bit as tense as the first with Ayr pushing forward in search of a second goal to take the tie to extra-time but their hopes were sunk 10 minutes from time when Inverness restored to their two-goal advantage.
Coll Donaldson got the goal, rising highest to beat Doohan with a glancing header from Liam Polworth’s free kick to set-up a semi-final meeting against his former club Dundee United.
The first leg will be played at Caledonian Stadium on Tuesday with the second leg taking place at Tannadice on Friday.