A THRILLING rollercoaster ride of a second half ended with Caley Thistle going down 4-2 away to St Mirren in the Ladbrokes Championship this afternoon, a result which took Saints top of the table.
One down at the break, the Inverness team deservedly got back into the game twice at 1-1 and 2-2 before two long-range goals from the Buddies finished them off as the fans were on the edge of their seats at the Paisley 2021 Stadium.
The Highlanders made one change from the side which beat Aberdeen under-20s 4-2 in the Irn-Bru Cup at Brechin a week ago, with skipper Gary Warren back in the defence in place of Coll Donaldson.
Saints went last week with a youthful team in their victory over Hearts colts and three changes were made, with Craig Samson, Gary Irvine and Lewis Morgan returning to the starting 11.
Before a ball was kicked, Caley Thistle began the day on just four points following their 4-0 win at Brechin a fortnight ago netting them their first league triumph of the campaign.
The Buddies had got their Championship term off to a decent start, going into this one just one point adrift of leaders Dunfermline Athletic, with four victories on the spin in all competitions.
These sides last met on Valentines Day in 2015 when goals from Greg Tansey and Ryan Christie, now both doing the business for Aberdeen, earned ICT a 2-1 win.
Only Warren, Ryan Esson and Carl Tremarco were in the squad that afternoon in the Premiership and this one.
Kick-off was delayed for a few moments as the sprinklers at the end the hosts were defending took time to switch off.
ICT had the ball in the net after just 80 seconds as Iain Vigurs swept the ball out to Riccardo Calder and his cross was buried by John Baird, but the offside flag was up and it remained 0-0.
Encouraging signs though for John Robertson's team.
On 11 minutes, ICT had another chance when Joe Chalmers won a corner and it was swung in by Liam Polworth and Brad Mckay powered his header over the top.
Saints soon settled and a fine left-foot drive from Stephen McGinn on 16 minutes was touched over the bar by goalkeeper Mark Ridgers.
St Mirren then appealed for a spot-kick when Gregor Buchanan went down in the box, but referee Willie Collum waved play on. From the corner, however, Cammy Smith could not direct his effort over the line in a packed penalty box.
Former Ross County midfielder Ian McShane was next to have a go and his 25-yarder deflected off Warren and behind for a corner, which came to nothing in the end for the Paisley team.
However, they were in front with a swift breakaway on 31 minutes when, from an Inverness CT attacl, they broke in numbers and Morgan marched into the box and his deflected shot beat Ridgers and flew into the back of the net.
Fingers were being pointed all over the place with the ICT wondering just how they were picked apart with such ease.
It was almost 2-0 a few minutes later when Morgan burst into the box again, but this time Ridgers turned the close-range shot past the right post.
At the other end, Charlie Trafford found space beside the right corner flag and his cross was just missed the the in-rushing Baird.
Caley Thistle almost levelled two minutes after the restart when Baird released Polworth on the run and the midfielder worked his way into the box before guiding the ball inches wide.
Moments later, Baird steered a shot just off target just before the forward's header was turned behind for a cornet.
It was a strong start to the second half from ICT.
Both teams had chances on the hour to get on the scoresheet on the hour mark when sub Connor Bell went close for Caley Thistle then Cammy Smith shot over for St Mirren.
However, the Highlanders were level from the next move when an excellent Polworth pass found Baird and he tucked the ball past Samson into the net.
In what was turning out to be a frantic spell, St Mirren got in front when McShane whipped a ball into the box and Gavin Reilly nipped in quickest to poke the ball over the line and restore the hosts' advantage.
Warren almost regained parity for the Caley Jags when he met a Cooper corner on 68 minutes, but the skipper's header ended wide of the left post.
However, that was the case on 69 minutes when Polworth picked up the ball after an offside decision was overuled and he rounded Samson to guide his shot into the empty net.
The goals kept coming though and St Mirren got their noses in front once more on 73 minutes when Reilly's deflected effort fell to Smith and he rifled a long-ranger powerfully past Ridgers to make it 3-2.
And moments later, St Mirren put the game out of ICT's reach when McShane fired a cracking 25-yarder past Ridgers to extend that advantage further.
It was pulsating stuff, but a nightmare now for Robertson's men in Paisley.
This result combined with Dunfermline losing 3-2 at Morton and Queen of the South drawing 2-2 at Livingston means Saints moved top, with Caley Thistle dropping to eighth position.
They need to get wins on the board quickly and will host Livingston next weekend in their quest to kick-start their season.
St Mirren: Samson, Demetriou (Kirkpatrick 85), Irvine, McGinn, Buchanan, Morgan (Duffy 90), Smith (T,odd 88), Baird, McShane, Reilly, Eckersley. Subs not used: Stewart (GK), Sutton, Stewart, Whyte.
Inverness CT: Ridgers, Raven, Chalmers, Warren, Polworth, Baird, Vigurs, Calder (Bell 56), Cooper, Mckay, Trafford. Subs not used: Esson (GK), Tremarco, Elsdon, Oakley, Mulraney, Donaldson.
Referee: Willie Collum.