Dons survive Caley comeback
Aberdeen survived a spirited second-half showing from Inverness to move up to third in the Scottish Premiership after edging a seven-goal thriller in the Highland Capital.
The Dons raced into a 4-0 lead at the interval courtesy of two Barry Robson goals, one of which was the opener from the penalty spot, plus Peter Pawlett and Niall McGinn strikes.
The hosts produce a more robust display after the break, with Billy McKay scoring twice and Graeme Shinnie on target, but it ultimately proved all in vain as Aberdeen ran out winners over the Caley Jags for a second time this season.
There was one change to the Inverness line-up that defeated Hearts at Tynecastle seven days ago, with Marley Watkins missing out with a dead leg and Danny Williams coming in for his first start since joining the club in the summer.
Aberdeen, still without knee injury victim Clark Robertson, brought in Joe Shaughnessy for Andrew Considine from the starting XI which overcame St Mirren last weekend.
New Caley Thistle manager John Hughes was making his debut in the home dugout and after Richie Foran headed a Carl Tremarco free-kick wide, Nick Ross was inches away from finding the bottom corner after the ball broke to him 16 yards out.
The hosts were firmly on the front foot and Aaron Doran almost made Jamie Langfield pay for a poor clearance, but the visiting goalkeeper managed to get back to save his effort from 25 yards.
Inverness were on top in the opening 20 minutes, yet they found themselves trailing to what seemed a harsh penalty award in the 22nd minute.
Josh Meekings was adjudged to have handled Robson's cross, the latter driving home the resultant spot-kick into the corner - the first goal the hosts had conceded in six games.
Aberdeen seized the initiative and Robson, who had departed Caley Thistle in 2003, came back to further haunt his former employers in the 31st minute. Pawlett's cross found the midfielder inside the six-yard box and he did well to head into the corner of Dean Brill's goal.
After Meekings had blocked McGinn's goalbound effort, Pawlett calmly converted Scott Vernon's cross from 12 yards to make it 3-0 in the 37th minute.
Aberdeen were not finished there and a wonderful run by McGinn that started just inside the Caley Thistle half took the forward to the edge of the 18-yard box, where he unleashed a powerful drive that fizzed past the exposed Brill.
There was to be one final blow in a first half to forget for Inverness, captain Foran forced off after he failed to recover from a hefty clash with his Dons counterpart Russell Anderson. He was replaced by David Raven.
Inverness got the breakthrough they desperately needed just two minutes into the second half. Langfield failed to deal with a Tremarco corner and top scorer McKay turned the ball home from close range at the back post.
With renewed hope, Inverness almost got themselves another goal back, but Langfield did well to block a volley from Ross after being set up 12 yards out by McKay.
Moments later, however, and Caley Thistle did halve the deficit. Ross showed great tenacity to win the ball 20 yards out and find McKay, who kept his composure to round Langfield and drive a low shot beyond Michael Hector on the line.
Aberdeen suffered a blow in the 62nd minute when Mark Reynolds had to be substituted after a clash of heads with Raven that saw both players receive lengthy treatment.
The Dons brought on former Inverness winger Hayes but it was McGinn who almost made the game safe - only for his shot on target to be diverted away by Raven.
Ross Draper struck the upright with a header from Tremarco's corner, before Raven rattled the same post as he attempted to turn the rebound home from an acute angle.
With Inverness forced to to commit increasing numbers forward, this left space for Aberdeen to exploit, but neither McGinn or Pawlett could manage to find a way past Brill.
Caley Thistle looked to have run out of ideas, but in the 89th minute Shinnie brought them to within a goal of their opponents as he stole in at the back post to head home Draper's flighted cross.
The home side battled hard to find an equaliser in the five minutes of injury-time, but could not find one and slip to fourth in the table.