Caley Thistle moved to within three points of Championship leaders Arbroath after a 1-1 draw at lowly Dunfermline Athletic made this their fourth level score on the spin.
Shane Sutherland’s strike late in the first half put ICT in front but a Steven Lawless spot-kick 10 minutes from time took Dunfermline above Queen of the South and into ninth position.
It was a full-blooded, competitive battle, with points mattering for both teams at either end of the division.
Despite this being a 10th v second contest, neither side came into this one in particularly fine form.
For ICT, they had posted just three wins in 15 games, with three successive draws preventing them from catching leaders Arbroath.
The Highlanders’ 2015 Scottish Cup-winning manager John Hughes is aiming to keep the Fifers up and dug out an important 1-0 victory against Hamilton a week ago. That was their first win in seven outings.
Main striker Billy Mckay sidelined
The headline team news for the visitors was 12-goal striker Billy Mckay was missing with a knock, as was midfielder Roddy MacGregor.
Scott Allardice is out for several months with a knee injury, while Aaron Doran also remains sidelined.
There was just one change for the hosts, with Lewis Martin coming in for Mark Connolly, whose loan from Dundee United was over and he’s now on a short stint with Dundalk.
Inverness seeking first win over Pars
Dunfermline have been tricky customers for ICT this term taking four points from the two meetings thus far.
Hughes had only just replaced Peter Grant when they found it within them to score a 1-0 win at the Caledonian Stadium in November.
However, just one defeat on the road and a determination to put three points on the board in the sole Championship game today was the driving force for the visitors to move to within one point of first place.
The Caley Jags started on the front foot, with a couple of testing crosses keeping their opponents on their toes.
A slick move from Dunfermline had their fans lifted, but it ended when Aaron Comrie’s low cross was gathered by goalkeeper Mark Ridgers.
Ex-Raith striker Duku got a glimpse at goal on 21 minutes when he robbed Martin of possession, but his shot was too tame to trouble former Inverness keeper Owain Fon William, who clutched it without fuss.
The effort and quality for much of the first half was not matched by quality, but Inverness got their noses in front six minutes before the break.
On-loan Norwich midfielder Reece McAlear got the better of Paul Allan and his cross from the right was steered calmly into the net by Sutherland for his sixth goal of the season.
It was just what ICT needed, so the question was could they retain the lead, something they’ve struggled to achieve too often this term.
On the stroke of half-time, an injury suffered by defender Danny Devine was replaced by Wallace Duffy. Devine was soon using crutches to take his seat in the stand.
‘Missing’ referee leads to late restart
Referee Steven Reid took seven minutes to rejoin the players at the start of the second half, with the Pars in particular keen to get on with it.
Dunfermline were a fraction away from drawing level as interval substitute Kevin O’Hara was denied by Ridgers when he met a downward header from McCann after Steven Lawless whipped it in.
Chalmers made his ICT debut on 67 minutes when he replaced Duku, who had been well controlled by the Pars throughout the match. Pearson followed on not long after, taking the place of Harper.
It looked like it was all going to fade out with a 1-0 win, but then the home team were given a lifeline when a delivery from Dan Pybus hit David Carson on the arm and a penalty was awarded with 10 minutes to go.
Up stepped Lawless and the ex-Motherwell man sent Ridgers the wrong way to lift the volume inside East End Park and the Pars off the foot of the table by one point over Queens.
Next Saturday, ICT hit the road again to tackle Derek McInnes’ title contenders Kilmarnock, while the Pars head to Queen of the South for a basement battle.
HOW THEY LINED UP
DUNFERMLINE ATHLETIC (4-3-3) – Fon Williams 6, Comrie 6, Edwards 6, Donaldson 6, Dow 6 (Dorrans 63), McCann 6, Pybus 6, Allan 6 (O’Hara 46), Lawless 6, Todd 6 (Cole 63), Martin 6. Subs not used: Mehmet (GK), Macdonald, Todorov, Jones
CALEY THISTLE (4-4-1-1) – Ridgers 6, Harper 6 (Pearson 72), Welsh 6, Deas 6, Devine (Duffy 46), Carson 6, Sutherland 6, Walsh 6, Broadfoot 6, Duku 6 (Chalmers 67), McAlear 7. Subs not used: MacKay (GK), Jamieson, Hyde, Nicolson.
REFEREE – Steven Reid.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Reece McAlear.