Ten man St. Duthus were just too good for their Inverness hosts as they ran out 5-2 winners to record another three points in the Macleod & MacCallum North Caledonian League.
Ben Bruce, Ross Tokely and Paul Beaton were recalled to the starting lineup having missed out on the trip to Halkirk, while goalkeeper John Allan made his debut for St. Duthus coming in for the absent Stephen Campbell.
While the rest of the North seemed to have their unbrellas at the ready, Inverness remained dry for the majority of the game - which made for good conditions on the Inverness Royal Academy artifical surface.
Eight minutes into the game, John Allan was first to be called into action, having to steer a ball across the face of goal to safety after Dean Allison had found a way into the six yard box along the byline.
Athletic took the lead two minutes later though when a Ross Harrison corner found the head of Ryan Stewart who nodded into the path of an unmarked Dean Allison for the easiest of headers.
The game continued to be evenly contested in the early going and Saints' first real chance to equalise came when a ball into the box was met by Ben Bruce who headed beyond Hunter and just wide of goal on 17 minutes.
Bruce was unlucky again five minutes later when he connected with a long Ross Tokely free kick to lob Ryan Hunter in the Athletic goal - but his clever effort drifted just wide of the far post.
On the half hour mark, a quick exchange between Cammy Mackintosh and Ben Bruce played Liam Rostock in on goal, but Hunter held his low effort well. Just a minute later, Hunter had to react again, this time to deny Ben Bruce who fired a low shot at goal after bursting into the box.
Saints' pressure paid off and the equaliser eventually arrived in the 38th minute. A quick turn from Ben Bruce fed Jon Campbell through on goal and the midfield man took no prisoners as he broke into the Inverness box and scored with a left footed strike between the legs of Hunter.
The game took a contentious turn a few minutes later when James Murray was felled on the edge of the box, prompting claims for a penalty kick. The resultant free kick though was easily held by John Allan. From the kick out, Allan found Ben Bruce who played a superb reverse pass to play Stefan MacRitchie in on goal, but the midfielder's lobbed effort on goal landed just over the bar.
Cammy Mackintosh was felled for the first Saints penalty award. (Photo: GJW Sport)
Saints completed the turnaround two minutes before half time to take in a 2-1 lead. Receiving the ball from Ross Tokely, Cammy Mackintosh broke clear of the Inverness defence and in a crowded melee, he was fouled by Inverness keeper Hunter inside the area. From the penalty award, Liam Rostock opened his account for the season, marking his fiftieth appearance for Saints with a well taken spot kick.
Half time: Inverness Athletic 1 St. Duthus 2
St. Duthus began the second half in the same fashion they ended it - and they could have extended their lead right from the get go. A neat pass from Bruce found Rostock through on goal who shot underneath Hunter, but the keeper did well to get down low and prevent the goal. Moments later, Bruce carried the ball into the Athletic half himself and broke into the box before forcing another good save from Hunter.
The ever present threat of the long John Allan kick out was effective on 55 minutes when the long ball was headed into the path of Rostock, but while the striker's lob cleared Hunter, it drifted just wide of the empty net.
Saints were beginning to rue their missed chances soon after when a Ross Harrison free kick was headed beyond Allan by Dean Allison to make it 2-2, drawing Inverness level. Undone once again by a headed goal at a set piece, Saints could certainly argue the scoreline was against the run of play.
The game was beginning to take a scrappy turn though, with yellow cards being issued for dissent. It then began to seem like things may be about to get worse for St. Duthus when left back Paul Beaton was dismissed for an off the ball incident, reducing the Tain side to ten men.
With around twenty minutes remaining, Athletic passed up their best opportunity to take the lead when Roddy Innes played a quick one-two with fellow Caithness native James Murray, but the former's weakly hit shot rolled straight into the waiting hands of Allan.
Everything quickly changed in the 75th minute of the match - as the ten men of St. Duthus restored their lead. From a Reece Paterson throw into the box, the ball fell to Ben Bruce who struck towards goal and the ball connected with the arm of Inverness defender Ryan Stewart. Referee Will McKay promptly awarded Saints their second penalty kick of the afternoon and Bruce made no mistake with a well struck effort into the corner to make it 3-2.
Bruce netted his second of the game just two minutes later, getting on the end of a long John Allan kick to dink the ball over Hunter with the coolest of finishes. Even with the man disadvantage, Saints were cruising now at 4-2 up with the prospect of victory now firmly in their grasp.
Then came the hat-trick just moments after the restart. Carrying the ball over the half way line, Stefan MacRitchie sent Bruce clean through on goal and the forward man made no mistake with a lashing strike down the gullet of the Athletic goal to record his hat-trick in just 2 minutes 57 seconds.
St. Duthus were flying, and for the remaining 12 minutes of the game they looked every bit worthy of their impending victory as they introduced a handful of substitutes to proceedings - among them Scott Miller, who joined Liam Rostock in making his fiftieth appearance for the club.
One last flurry of attack from Athletic saw a curling effort from Phil Macdonald force a good save from Allan - but these were to be the the final moments of the game as time was promptly called.
Full time: Inverness Athletic 2 St. Duthus 5
The win pushes Saints up into third place in the league, joining Invergordon on six points which shall no doubt set the scene for the club's next league match on October 12th, when they shall play host to their Easter Ross neighbours.
Next up for St. Duthus though is their semi-final match in the Jock Mackay Cup, which shall involve an immediate return to Inverness next weekend.
Ryan Hunter, Ross Harrison, Calum Black, Ryan Stewart, Taylor Sutherland, Roddy Innes, Jack Mackay, Calum Gow, James Murray, Russell Macintyre, Dean Allison
Subs: James Mackay, Trialist, Phil Macdonald
John Allan, Adam Allan, Paul Beaton, John Skinner, Charlie Macdonald, Jon Campbell, Ross Tokely, Cammy Mackintosh, Ben Bruce, Liam Rostock, Stefan MacRitchie
Subs: Scott Miller, Finn As-Chainey, Alan Geegan, Trialist, Trialist
Referee: Will Mckay (Lossiemouth)
Match Gallery: https://www.flickr.com/gp/gjw75/6p173C
Ben Bruce post-match, celebrating his three-minute hat-trick