Lightning struck twice for Caley Thistle as they were pegged back by battling Ayr United – but they need just three more points to secure a Championship play-off spot.
Last November, Ayr fought back from 2-1 down at the break to secure a 2-2 draw.
On Saturday, they repeated the feat when they matched that scoreline, but achieved it from being 2-0 down after 14 minutes.
However, with fifth-placed Raith Rovers losing 1-0 at home to Morton, third-placed Inverness need one win from their final four games to seal a play-off position.
It looks like they will be going in against Partick Thistle in a third against fourth double-header.
Second-placed Arbroath’s 1-0 victory at Hamilton makes it a tall order for ICT to catch them, with the gap being nine points, albeit the Caley Jags have one game in hand.
After wins against Arbroath, Raith and Dunfermline, the visitors to the sun-bathed seaside town of Ayr were well on course for four-in-a-row.
Doran key in Caley Thistle goals
Aaron Doran has been such a top creator during the side’s recent recovery after three winless months.
And the Dubliner, who had to go off at half-time with a thigh strain, played a big part when involved here.
He sprayed a pass out wide to striker Billy Mckay who patiently waited before picking out Shane Sutherland for his 10th goal of the season after just eight minutes.
Ayr had not won at home in their last six outings and the nerves were fraught amongst their supporters.
That feeling heightened when ICT doubled the scoreline after 14 minutes with a cracking strike.
Again, Doran made it happen with a wonderful high pass on to Logan Chalmers and the on-loan Dundee United forward superbly swerved the ball beyond goalkeeper Aidan McAdams into the net.
The vocal band of travelling fans were elated and you got the feeling there would be more goals to follow.
However, Ayr dug deep and only a fine combined block from Wallace Duffy and Robbie Deas prevented Sam Ashford from testing keeper Cammy Mackay.
Second half response after fans’ blast
The home supporters let their team know they wanted a response as the players trudged up the tunnel at the break.
And the Honest Men stormed back, lifting the mood as United aimed to remain at least eighth with a trip to ninth-placed Dunfermline waiting them this weekend. The gap is now at three points after their two-goal comeback.
The first one arrived on 54 minutes when 17-year-old Fraser Bryden scored his first Ayr goal by turning on the spot and shooting through a blue wall of bodies after substitute Daire O’Connor whipped the ball across goal.
The noisy old ground was making itself heard, with the home fans urging their side on, sensing a shift in momentum as they piled on the pressure.
It was no shock when they equalised on 73 minutes when substitute Markus Fjortoft steered home a cross from impressive on-loan Celtic midfielder Kerr McInroy.
With plenty at stake for both teams, there were calls for spot-kicks at both ends of the park, which referee Willie Collum waved away.
A point apiece was a fair outcome and ICT now turn their full focus on hosting leaders Kilmarnock on Friday night.
Team ‘froze’ as Ayr fought back
Inverness head coach Billy Dodds admitted his in-form side didn’t deal with the response from their fired-up hosts after the break.
He said: “Fair play to Ayr United in the second half, but we didn’t do our bit and I’m really disappointed with the second half. Even in our bad run, I wasn’t saying that about the boys.
“Although Ayr were in the game, I felt we helped them along. I trusted the boys on Saturday to see out the game.
“We didn’t do the right things at times and ended up slashing a few shots and having poor headers here and there and you could feel throughout my team like they froze a little bit.
“In the second half, we created a couple of half chances, but never played anywhere near our capabilities in the second 45.”
HOW THEY LINED UP
AYR UNITED (4-4-2) – McAdams 6, Houston 6 (Fjortoft 71), Reading 6, McGinty 6 (Baird 88), Muirhead 6, Kenyon 6 (Smith 58), McKenzie 5 (Adeloye 46), McInroy 7, Maxwell 5 (O’Connor 46), Ashford 6, Bryden 6. Subs not used: Albinson (GK), Gondoh, Moffat, Ecrepont.
CALEY THISTLE (4-2-3-1) – Mackay 6, Duffy 6, Welsh 6, Deas 6, Carson 6 (Devine 82), Mckay 7 (Hardy 82), Doran 6 (Harper 46), Sutherland 6, Broadfoot 6, Chalmers 7 (MacGregor 70), McAlear 6 (Samuels 77). Subs not used: Ridgers (GK), Walsh, Hyde.
Referee – Willie Collum.
Attendance – 1756.
Man of the match – Billy Mckay.