Inverness Caledonian Thistle will face St Johnstone in the Scottish Premiership play-off final after a 5-3 penalty shootout win over Arbroath.
The part-time hosts’ dream of promotion to the top flight ended, despite Inverness finishing the second of two goalless legs with nine men after Danny Devine and Wallace Duffy were controversially sent off.
The tie ultimately went to a shootout and, after Arbroath veteran Bobby Linn had his spot-kick saved by Mark Ridgers, Kirk Broadfoot slotted home.
Inverness, who have spent four years in the Championship, will now host St Johnstone on 20 May before travelling to Perth for the return leg three days later.
It was perhaps no surprise that goals were difficult to come by at Gayfield considering Inverness had scored just four times in their five previous meetings this season and Arbroath only one.
Billy Dodds’ side finished a place below their hosts in the Championship but had won two of the five encounters this season, losing once. Only top-flight Hibernian had won at Gayfield in 21 games since their July victory.
However, as in the first leg, Dick Campbell’s side started the brighter side, with Inverness looking tentative playing into a strong wind billowing in from the North Sea.
Shane Sutherland had the first clear-cut chance, the Inverness striker slicing his 15-yard drive into the side netting just after the break.
The visitors were reduced to 10 men when Devine contested a high ball with Jack Hamilton and the defender pulled the Arbroath frontman to the ground as he looked to race clear.
Sutherland was then taken off injured and they had to survive eight minutes of normal time with nine men until they could bring on an additional substitute.
Visiting keeper Ridgers saved from Hamilton and, after Duffy was shown a second yellow card with seven minutes to go for a lunging challenge, Colin Hamilton sent a looping header against the Inverness crossbar.
They survived the late pressure to provide the killer touch in the shootout.
What they said
Arbroath manager Dick Campbell: “Anybody who knows anything about football knows we were way, way in front. But I’ve seen it happen in the play-offs. We had 600 passes, they had 300-odd.
“We’re not ones to feel sorry for ourselves. The whole season has been a fairy tale, it’ll be memorable. We were close to immortality. We’ve got to repeat that next year. Christmas has come early for Inverness tonight. I wish them all the best.”
Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager Billy Dodds: “It wasn’t about us getting through tonight, it was the circumstances we did it in. I have my feelings – I’m just keeping quiet because I’ll get myself into trouble.
“My boys gave me absolutely everything. We had to work our socks off. That’s the best bunch of boys I’ve worked with. I would have been proud of every one of them if we lost the penalty shootout tonight.”
- 2ThomsonSubstituted forDonnellyat 90′minutes
- 5O’BrienSubstituted forHendersonat 105′minutes
- 3HamiltonBooked at 55mins
- 18HamiltonBooked at 73minsSubstituted forGoldat 105′minutes
- 28CraigenSubstituted forLinnat 76′minutes
- 20HamiltonSubstituted forWightonat 111′minutesBooked at 120mins
- 8CarsonBooked at 27mins
- 6DevineBooked at 66mins
- 5DeasBooked at 120mins
- 23McAlearSubstituted forDuffyat 74′minutesBooked at 113mins
- 11SutherlandSubstituted forat 83′minutesSubstituted forHydeat 90′minutesBooked at 118mins
- 10DoranSubstituted forHardyat 60′minutes
- 17ChalmersSubstituted forHarperat 68′minutes
- 24SamuelsSubstituted forMckayat 45′minutesBooked at 115mins
- William Collum
Match ends, Arbroath 0(3), Inverness CT 0(5).
Penalty Shootout ends, Arbroath 0(3), Inverness CT 0(5).
Goal! Arbroath 0(3), Inverness CT 0(5). Kirk Broadfoot (Inverness CT) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the centre of the goal.
Penalty saved! Bobby Linn (Arbroath) fails to capitalise on this great opportunity, right footed shot saved in the bottom left corner.
Goal! Arbroath 0(3), Inverness CT 0(4). Cameron Harper (Inverness CT) converts the penalty with a left footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Goal! Arbroath 0(3), Inverness CT 0(3). Colin Hamilton (Arbroath) converts the penalty with a left footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Goal! Arbroath 0(2), Inverness CT 0(3). Sean Welsh (Inverness CT) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Goal! Arbroath 0(2), Inverness CT 0(2). Nicky Low (Arbroath) converts the penalty with a left footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Goal! Arbroath 0(1), Inverness CT 0(2). Joseph Hardy (Inverness CT) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom right corner.
Goal! Arbroath 0(1), Inverness CT 0(1). Michael McKenna (Arbroath) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom right corner.
Goal! Arbroath 0, Inverness CT 0(1). Billy Mckay (Inverness CT) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the centre of the goal.
Penalty Shootout begins Arbroath 0, Inverness CT 0.
Second Half Extra Time ends, Arbroath 0, Inverness CT 0.
Craig Wighton (Arbroath) is shown the yellow card.
Robbie Deas (Inverness CT) is shown the yellow card.
Corner, Arbroath. Conceded by Robbie Deas.
Attempt blocked. Nicky Low (Arbroath) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Liam Henderson.
Colin Hamilton (Arbroath) hits the bar with a header from the centre of the box. Assisted by Nicky Low with a cross.
Corner, Arbroath. Conceded by Kirk Broadfoot.
Lewis Hyde (Inverness CT) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.