Inverness survived two controversial red cards to beat Arbroath on penalties and reach the cinch Premiership play-off final.
Billy Dodds’ side will face St Johnstone in the first leg next Friday after winning the shoot-out 5-3 following 210 goalless minutes of action.
Kirk Broadfoot stepped up to convert the deciding spot-kick immediately after the long-serving Bobby Linn saw his effort saved by Mark Ridgers.
Caley Thistle – and watching Saints manager Callum Davidson – would have been delighted to see the tie go to extra time after a controversial red card for Danny Devine in the 66th minute.
Dick Campbell’s side could not capitalise even after Wallace Duffy became the second man sent off by Willie Collum in the 113th minute.
There was a typically strong wind blowing at Gayfield, on the shore of the North Sea, and the hosts had the elements and the majority of the 5,154 crowd behind them in the first half.
There was little football played in the opening period and zero shots on target, with home striker Jack Hamilton coming closest. Caley Thistle produced no first-half shots at all.
There were signs of a contest just after the interval. Hamilton fired a dangerous ball across the face of goal and Shane Sutherland ran on to a loose ball but sliced wide.
Arbroath’s Scott Stewart was well off target from good chances either side of the main talking point.
Hamilton beat Devine to a long ball in the air and the Caley Thistle defender threw an arm out as he collided with the striker and fell. There appeared little in it but Hamilton went down and Collum ruled the centre-back had denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity. The referee soon flashed another red card to Caley Thistle coach Scott Kellacher.
Arbroath stepped up the pressure and Caley Thistle suffered another blow when Sutherland was carried off on a stretcher in the 83rd minute after going down with no-one near him. The visitors had to see out the 90 minutes with nine men having already stopped the game three times for their four substitutions.
Linn had a shot blocked bravely by Sean Welsh before Inverness sub Joe Hardy fired well over after a brilliant solo run.
Inverness were temporarily down to eight men as Kirk Broadfoot got a head wound cleaned up but Arbroath could not capitalise and Luke Donnelly and Hamilton failed to convert headed chances in stoppage time.
Caley Thistle went back up to 10 men at the start of extra-time with Lewis Hyde allowed to replace Sutherland and Welsh tried his luck straight from kick-off but Derek Gaston saved.
Arbroath continued the pressure but Colin Hamilton headed wide and Nicky Low was twice off target from long range.
Duffy received a second yellow card despite getting the ball as he slid into a tackle, but Michael McKenna shot wide and Colin Hamilton sent a looping header off the bar as the nine men survived continued pressure before holding their nerve from the spot.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe