Caley Thistle enter Christmas in second spot on goal difference in the Championship after letting a lead slip in a 2-1 home defeat to Hamilton.
Sub Cameron Harper, who replaced an injured Aaron Doran in the first half, bulleted home the opener for the Caley Jags.
However, Accies struck back with goals from David Moyo and sub Andrew Winter to win it for the visitors, making this their second triumph over ICT this term.
No need for change after 6-1 rout
Last Saturday’s sizzling 6-1 rout of Morton brought all their best elements to the fore and they were seeking to build upon this.
Home head coach Billy Dodds, unsurprisingly, kept with the same 11 which crushed Morton.
For the visitors, who were the first team to beat ICT in the league this season, they made two changes from the side which was held 1-1 at Ayr United eight days go. In came Andy Ryan and Kyle Munro for Marley Redfern and Scott Martin.
Accies dropped out of the Premiership with Kilmarnock in May, but are firmly fixed in the lower half of the table. In fact, they arrived in the Highlands with just one win from their last eight fixtures in all competitions.
Former Ross County assistant Stuart Taylor replaced Brian Rice in August, but it’s clear this is a season about finding their feet in the second-tier, ensuring they remain a Championship club.
They had lost only one of their last five matches at the Caledonian Stadium and that was in their previous visit, in the top-flight, in May 2017.
Both teams began with plenty of energy and purpose, with Billy Mckay winning a corner for the hosts then Munro shot blocked on the way into Mark Ridgers’ grasp.
Ryan was a livewire for Accies and his drive from 25 yards was on target as Ridgers clutched it without too much trouble.
Scott Allardice was pulling strings for ICT and he cleverly picked out Aaron Doran, who forced a stop from Joe Hilton.
Accies were always a danger though and Munro flashed an effort over the top after fine work from Moyo then Ryan, who cut the ball into the box.
Allardice was on the move whenever he could and he had a pop from long-range, with his shot deflected over the crossbar.
Six minutes before the break, Doran, who appeared to have taken a knock, was replaced by Harper, who took the midfielder’s advanced position.
The first opportunity of the second half came to Reece McAlear, whose glancing header flashed past the left post when he met a fine cross from right-back David Carson. After scoring his first senior goal last week, the on-loan Norwich starlet is confident.
Shane Sutherland was next to have a go and was unlucky to see his header saved by on-the-mark Hilton. ICT were knocking at the door.
Then, from a swift attack on 62 minutes, Sutherland swiped a drive beyond the right post after Harper released him on the left side of the box.
Three minutes later, the opener arrived when Sutherland launched a pass on to Mckay and his delivery was crashed home his shot from close range.
65' | 1-0
GOALLLLLLLLLL! CAMERON HARPER OPENS THE SCORING pic.twitter.com/MQ9u7FOI2L
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC (@ICTFC) December 18, 2021
It was almost two moments later and only a stop by Hilton’s boot prevented Sutherland netting when he burst into the box.
Hamilton then had a spell where they pegged the Highland side back, with balls in and around the box and corners testing ICT.
And with 11 minutes to go, Moyo powered his header past Ridgers to secure a point when he connected with a Reece Mimnaugh ball into the box.
Accies clinched full points with a goal on 82 minutes when sub Winter headed home a corner which was sent in by Josh Mullin.
It was the unlikeliest of comeback wins and a sore one for ICT, but they are one of two teams locked on 34 points at the summit.
It’s on to Boxing Day now for these sides, with Partick Thistle coming to Inverness and Hamilton hosting Killie.
HOW THEY LINED UP –
CALEY THISTLE (4-4-1-1) – Ridgers 6, Deas 6 (Jamieson 85), Devine 6, Carson 6, Mckay 7, Doran 5 (Harper 39), Sutherland 7, Walsh 6, Broadfoot 6, Allardice 8 (Duku 88), McAlear 6. Subs not used: MacKay (GK), Duffy, MacGregor, McDonald.
HAMILTON (4-4-2) – Hilton 6, Popescu 6, Easton 6, Hamilton 6, MacDonald 6, Ryan 7 (Virtanen 85), Smith 7, Mullin 6, Mimnaugh 6, Moyo 6, Munro 7 (Winter 72). Subs not used: Smith (GK), Stirling, Hughes, Shiels.
Referee: Chris Graham.
Man of the match: Scott Allardice.