Caley Thistle came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw against Hamilton Accies – meaning a first win of 2022 continues to prove elusive.
Inverness got off to the worst possible start, with Josh Mullin giving Hamilton a lead their bright early start merited.
Caley Jags responded brightly to level through Sam Pearson’s first goal for the club.
Both sides created their share of chances to take all three points in the second half, but had to settle for a share of the points.
Inverness are now six points adrift of the summit, ahead of Saturday’s remaining Championship fixtues.
The Highlanders had been desperately seeking to end their poor run of form, which saw them make the trip to Lanarkshire without a win since December 11.
Billy Dodds shook up his starting line-up, with five changes from the side that went down 2-1 to Ayr United.
There was a first league start for Lewis Hyde at right back while Austin Samuels was also drafted in, while the return of skipper Sean Welsh, Danny Devine and Aaron Doran provided plenty experience.
Cameron Harper, Shane Sutherland, Logan Chalmers, Wallace Duffy and the suspended David Carson dropped out of the side.
Inverness had a hairy moment in the early stages, when former Caley Jags loanee Kai Kennedy dispossessed Kirk Broadfoot, however his centre half partner Devine got across to make a strong block.
Kennedy was proving a lively outlet for the hosts, with a delivery on eight minutes nodded narrowly over by Mullin.
Accies made the breakthrough on 13 minutes however. After Steve Lawson’s cross had initially been cut out by Devine, Reece McAlear dithered in trying to clear it, allowing Mullin to dispossess him and fire a strike high past Cammy Mackay into the net.
Inverness showed a strong initial response however, and a decent move saw Billy Mckay pull the ball across for Samuels, with his effort deflected over by Lawson.
Caley Jags did force parity on the half hour mark however. Samuels powered a low ball into the box which broke into the path of Doran, and although his low effort was well saved by Ryan Fulton, he could do nothing to prevent Pearson following up on the rebound.
Both sides had chances to regain their lead before the interval, with Hamilton’s Lewis Spence seeing a shot palmed away by Mackay.
Inverness appealed for a penalty when Robbie Deas went to ground in a tussle to meet a Doran free-kick, while Pearson saw a strike blocked from the edge of the box.
The sides went in level at the break, which left all to play for in the second period.
Caley Jags were unfortunate not to take the lead on 54 minutes when Doran played Mckay through on goal, with his first time effort diverted behind by the fingertips of Fulton.
A deft cross by Pearson picked out Samuels at the far post, but he was penalised for handball before his low strike was saved by the legs of Fulton.
Dodds looked to his bench, with Harper brought on to replace Devine – who was making his first appearance in a month following injury. Caley Jags also rejigged their attacking unit, with Doran making way for Sutherland.
Chances appeared to have dried up at both ends however both goalkeepers were called into action within a matter of seconds on 70 minutes. The first opportunity came Hamilton’s way, with Mackay standing tall to gather a Scott Martin effort after the ball fell to him following a throw-in.
Mackay immediately looked to play in Mckay from his kick upfield, with the attacker looking to loft the ball over the advancing goalkeeper who managed to get enough on the effort to keep it out.
Accies spurned a fine opportunity moments later, with David Moyo nodding over from close range after being picked out by a Mullin delivery.
The game had truly opened up, with Pearson sidefooting an effort wide on 74 minutes following a neat interchange involving Mckay and Sutherland.
Mullin was inches away from restoring Accies’ lead when he struck the post following a goalmouth stramash in Caley Thistle’s box.
The best late chance fell to Moyo who looked to be picking his spot when Andy Ryan’s ball picked him out behind the defence, with Mackay on hand to make a vital point-blank save to keep the scoreline level.
Substitute Joe Hardy saw a low drive blocked by Fulton with the final kick of the ball in Inverness’ push for a winner, but Dodds’ men had to be content with a point.
HAMILTON ACCIES (4-3-3) – Fulton 7; Lawson 7, Popescu 6, O’Reilly 6, MacDonald 6; Mullin 7, Mimnaugh 6 (Ryan 78), Spence 6 (Martin 69); Redfern 6 (Brown 69), Moyo 6, Kennedy 7. Subs not used – J Smith, Easton, Hughes, Winter, Shiels, Nicolson.
CALEY THISTLE (4-2-3-1) – Mackay 7; Hyde 7, Broadfoot 6, Devine 6 (Harper 62), Deas 6; Welsh 6, McAlear 6; Pearson 7 (Hardy 78), Doran 7 (Sutherland 68), Samuels 7; Mckay 7. Subs not used – Esson, Walsh, Nicolson.
Referee – Alan Muir
Attendance – 1,187
Man of the match: Sam Pearson