A HORROR-show from Caley Thistle saw them roundly thumped 5-1 as Hearts ran riot at Tynecastle.
A brace apiece from Don Cowie and Sam Nicholson and a header from Conor Sammon gave the Jambos a thoroughly deserved victory, one which will cause Inverness boss Richie Foran plenty of sleepless nights.
The visitors looked ragged and were too easily bisected, particularly with the firepower at Hearts' disposal, and struggled to offer anything going forward. Their goal came with three minutes remaining through a Callum Paterson own goal, when he got his legs tangled trying to clear a Ross Draper shot.
Hearts had everything Caley Thistle did not – rhythm, intensity and incision – and with St Johnstone, Aberdeen and Celtic to come in the next three game
The Caley Jags made two enforced changes from the side that lost the Highland derby a week ago. Kevin McNaughton, likely out for the season with a ruptured achilles, was replaced by the returning Josh Meekings, who was making his first appearance of the season. Billy King was ineligible to play against his parent club and Jake Mulraney stepped in.
Just as they looked to be settling into the game Inverness were behind. John Souttar rolled the ball into Sammon's feet at the edge of the area and he in turn teed up Cowie, who curled wonderfully around Owain Fon Williams for a seventh-minute lead.
After Jake Mulraney had a penalty appeal turned away following Faycal Rherras' challenge, where the Caley Thistle winger was booked, they were in danger of being knocked out of the game early. Fon Williams had to be out quick to block Tony Watt's effort and then react quickly, as the ball rebounded back off Meekings towards goal.
Sure enough, they had their second goal with 17 minutes on the clock and Foran would be hugely disappointed with the manner in which they conceded. Watt – a menace throughout – hung the ball up to the back post where Sammon peeled off David Raven and headed back across goal, catching out Fon Williams and finding the net.
Caley Thistle's two best efforts of the opening period summed up their performance – two scuffed shots from Scott Boden and Liam Polworth that were gathered easily by Jack Hamilton.
If the visitors hoped half-time would provide some respite and they could go again, they were sadly mistaken. Within moments of the restart, Cowie produced a carbon-copy of his first goal, angling a shot from a Sammon lay-off into the far corner and putting Hearts in cruise control.
Still struggling to create, Caley Thistle threw on Alex Fisher and then Aaron Doran in a bid to try and prise something out of this miserly Hearts backline. Doran showed a willingness to drive at his opponent and still feels he has a point to prove but aside from a glancing Draper header, Hamilton was not tested.
The scoreline would look even more dreadful for Inverness before the game was out as Nicholson, who had not scored this season before today, netted twice in 60 seconds.
Bjorn Johnsen, with near enough his first touch, played a delightful backheel through to Nicholson, who slammed into the bottom corner on 78 minutes. Sixty seconds later the Caley Jags were caught in a five-on-three at the back, with Arnaud Djoum lifting the ball over the top to Nicholson and despite Fon Williams' best efforts, the shot crept in the far corner.
Draper's scuffed strike, after Vigurs had mis-kicked, was then bundled over the line by Paterson, but it was little consolation on a miserable afternoon for the Caley Jags.
HEARTS: Hamilton; Paterson, Rherras, Souttar, Rossi, Nicholson, Cowie (Muirhead, 80), Djoum, Kitchen (Buaben, 68), Watt, Sammon (Johnsen, 72). Subs unused: Noring, Ozturk, Smith, Nowak. Booked: Kitchen.
CALEY THISTLE: Fon Williams; Raven (Horner, 59), Meekings, Warren, Tremarco, Draper, Tansey, Mulraney (Doran, 64), Vigurs, Polworth, Boden (Fisher, 53). Subs unused: Esson, Brown. Booked: Tremarco, Mulraney, Polworth, Tansey.
Referee: S. MacLean.