Caley Thistle posted a fourth straight 1-0 win as their victory at Kilmarnock saw them replace at their hosts at the top of the Championship today.
Backed by a noisy travelling support, Michael Gardyne crashed home an early rocket and they rode the storm to get to half-time with that lead intact.
A solid defensive display, with menace in attack saw them through the second 45 minutes to hit top spot.
Something had to give in this one, with these rivals winning their first three league matches with conceding a goal.
A treble of 1-0 successes against Arbroath, Raith Rovers and Ayr United had Billy Dodds’ team tucked just behind Killie, who defeated Ayr and Hamilton 2-0 either side of a 1-0 win at Queen of the South.
This was the first meeting between the clubs since ICT were in the top-flight five seasons ago when three of the four games ended in 1-1 draws and Killie edged the other 1-0.
There has been very little between them in the head-to-heads over the years, with Caley Jags winning 17 to their opponents’ 15 triumphs.
Could ICT unsettle the favourites?
And the Inverness team are determined to ensure they are a match over this season for newly-relegated Kilmarnock, who are instant favourites to bounce right back up.
There was no surprise that neither manager needed to make any changes to their line-ups for this game.
Gardyne goal put visitors ahead
After a free-flowing end-to-end start, ICT flew into the lead after just five minutes when Gardyne, against his old side, was picked out by Shane Sutherland and he rifled a high shot into the net.
An early sting in the tail from the Highlanders and a first goal in Inverness colours for the Ross County legend.
Kilmarnock almost responded on 14 minutes after a cheap ball conceded by Kirk Broadfoot, another ex-Killie man, allowed Scott Robinson to feed it to Liam Polworth and he drew a save from his former team-mate Mark Ridgers.
Ridgers, fresh from signing a contract extension, then pulled off an even better diving save to keep out a low drive from Blair Alston.
Roddy MacGregor tried his luck at goal from 14 yards from a similar angle as Gardyne, but his attempt had too much height to trouble goalkeeper Zach Hemming.
Visitors needed to keep cool in heat
ICT were conceding a few needless fouls at times, much to the annoyance of the vocal home crowd. They just required a little bit of composure and Danny Devine and Shane Sutherland was booked for making such challenges.
That sense of injustice was spurring on the hosts as they pressed for a leveller in the Ayrshire sunshine. However, the Caley Jags made it to the interval with the one-goal advantage.
Kilmarnock continued to probe for an opening, but Caley Thistle were compact, allowing their opponents very little, while seeking a chance to attack.
On 66 minutes, it seemed like it would be 1-1, but somehow Ridgers kept out a header from substitute Innes Cameron, with the attentions of Devine also playing a part.
Nothing was coming off for Killie and ICT were standing up to anything that came their way.
Substitute Aaron Doran, David Carson and Shane Sutherland all had chances finish off target as they pushed for a second goal, but it was a case of job well done for ICT here at Rugby Park.
Next up for Caley Thistle is the SPFL Trust Trophy tie at home to Buckie Thistle next Saturday, with Killie hosting Falkirk in the same competition.
KILMARNOCK: Hemming 6, Naismith 6, Euan Murray 6, McGowan 6, Haunstrup 6, McGinn 6, Alston 7, Burke 6, McKenzie 7 (Fraser Murray 63), Polworth 6 (Armstrong 79), Robinson 4 (Cameron 30). Subs not used: Walker (GK), Sanders, Waters, Lyon.
CALEY THISTLE: Ridgers 7, Deas 6, Devine 6, Gardyne 7, Carson 6, Sutherland 6 (Mckay 87), MacGregor 6, Walsh 6 (Doran 70), Broadfoot 5, Allardice 6, Duku 5 (Welsh 61). Subs not used: MacKay (GK), Harper, Jamieson, McAlear.
Referee: Euan Anderson 6.
Man of the match: Michael Gardyne.