Caley Thistle must come from behind in their Premiership play-off semi final after the 10-man Highlanders fell to a 1-0 first leg defeat against Dundee United at Caledonian Stadium.
Following an evenly-contested first half, Caley Jags were dealt a blow three minutes after the break when midfielder Liam Polworth was dismissed.
Just as it looked as if Inverness would hold on for a goalless draw ahead of Friday’s second leg at Tannadice, winger Paul McMullan grabbed the decisive goal for United to hand Robbie Neilson’s men the initiative in the tie.
Caley Jags were forced to make one change from the side which faced Ayr United in both legs of the quarter final last week, with winger Tom Walsh sidelined through injury and replaced by Shaun Rooney.
United had the benefit of a 10-day rest ahead of the trip north, in contrast to a Caley Jags side who were playing their seventh match in the space of a month.
It was the visitors who had the best early chance on nine minutes, with Osman Sow drifting past Coll Donaldson before seeing his low strike well beaten away by Mark Ridgers.
Inverness enjoyed a strong flurry as the half reached the midway stage, with Joe Chalmers narrowly off target with a strike from long range on 17 minutes.
Chalmers was provider for an even better opportunity just six minutes later however, with his pinpoint cross finding the head of Jordan White, whose effort came back off the inside of the post before being cleared to safety.
The play continued to flow from end-to-end, and United came close when Kevin McHattie failed to clear the danger, allowing Paul McMullan to unleash a strike at goal which was well turned around the post by Ridgers.
It had been an encouraging first half display from Robertson’s men but Inverness’ task was made all the more difficult three minutes after the break when Polworth was shown a straight referee Nick Walsh for raising his foot as he went to challenge United defender Mark Connolly on the edge of the hosts’ box.
Chances were few and far between in the remainder of the second half, with United substitute Nicky Clark seeing a low drive gathered by Ridgers, however United’s breakthrough arrived on 78 minutes when Clark’s strike cannoned back off the post, before being tucked home on the rebound by McMullan to the delight of the visiting supporters.