Caley Thistle could not withstand a late Dunfermline flurry as they relinquished the lead to suffer an opening-day Championship defeat at East End Park.
All the signs had pointed towards the Highlanders making the perfect start to their league campaign when Nikolay Todorov put them ahead after 90 seconds.
But they ran out of luck when Todorov had to leave the field with less than 20 minutes played following a collision with Euan Murray.
Pars skipper Murray restored parity shortly afterwards and, although the game looked destined to peter out for a stalemate, goals within the last 12 minutes from Ryan Dow and Declan McManus ensured the points remained in Fife.
Inverness manager John Robertson felt slack defending for the Pars’ first two goals allowed Stevie Crawford’s men to profit from a game he believed was firmly in the balance.
Robertson said: “It was our failure to deal with set- plays. We spoke to the lads about how dangerous Paul Watson and especially Euan Murray, whose goalscoring return has been superb, are in the air.
“For him to get a free header for the first one is disappointing. For the second one we accept losing a header in the box, but the other lads had to make sure they stuck with their runners. Not one player but two players did that after a great save from Mark Ridgers.
“Up until Dunfermline’s second goal I thought we had got to the stage where it looked like the next goal would be the winner. With 15 minutes to go both teams were probing, but I don’t think either team was doing enough to get the winner at that time.”
Both sides were kicking off a new campaign in which they harbour promotion ambitions, despite title favourites Hearts sending out a compelling message with their 6-2 victory over a Dundee side tipped to be their closest challengers on Friday.
Inverness had used the Betfred Cup as part of their pre-season build up, with Robertson having never hidden from the fact the trip to East End Park was his main focus.
There were three changes from the side which was held to a goalless draw by Cowdenbeath in midweek, with the Highlanders having claimed the bonus point by winning the subsequent shoot-out. Winning penalty taker Scott Allardice was drafted in, along with goalkeeper Mark Ridgers and Todorov, with James Vincent, Cammy Mackay and the injured Miles Storey dropping out.
Robertson could not have wished for a better start, with the Highlanders drawing first blood after less than 90 seconds. The goal came from a fine attacking move, with Daniel MacKay sending in a pinpoint low delivery from the right which was swept home from six yards by Todorov.
The Highlanders’ early good fortune waned, however, with the first setback coming on 19 minutes when Todorov limped off to be replaced by Vincent following a collision with Murray.
Dunfermline hit the visitors with another blow by grabbing an equaliser four minutes later, with Dom Thomas’ corner picking out the head of skipper Murray who bulleted home a header from close-range.
The Pars posed the greater threat just after the break, with O’Hara and Thomas seeing efforts blocked behind.
The hosts’ best chance fell to McManus on 55 minutes following O’Hara’s cutback, however the former Ross County forward saw his near post effort thwarted by the legs of Ridgers.
The Pars turned the game on its head on 78 minutes though. After Josh Edwards’s free-kick had been flicked on by Iain Wilson, Ridgers initially did brilliantly to thwart another McManus effort, but was powerless to prevent Dow hammering home the rebound.
The home side broke to seal the points six minutes later, with McManus getting the break of the ball off Brad Mckay before curling a deflected effort over the outstretched arm of Ridgers from just inside the box.
Robertson was left to rue a match which slipped from Caley Thistle’s grasp.
DUNFERMLINE (4-1-3-2) – Fon Williams 6; Comrie 6, Watson 7, E Murray 7, Edwards 6; Wilson 6; Dow 7, Turner 6 (McInroy 78), Thomas 6; O’Hara 6 (F Murray 65), McManus 7. Subs not used – Gill, Martin, McCann, Allan, Mayo.
CALEY THISTLE (4-2-3-1) – Ridgers 7; Duffy 5, Mckay 5, Deas 6, McHattie 5; Welsh 6, Allardice 7; MacKay 7, MacGregor 6 (Harper 86), Keatings 6; Todorov 6 (Vincent 19). Subs not used – Mackay, Devine, Fyffe, Hyde, Harkness.
Referee – Willie Collum 6.
Man of the match – Euan Murray.