The man who took over from Terry Butcher was shell-shocked as an unstoppable Aberdeen went on the rampage with four goals before the break, but Hughes' half-time rallying call got his side back on their feet and they very nearly earned a draw as the teams continued to trade heavy blows in the closing stages.
"It was a great game for the spectators," he said, "but we gave ourselves too much to do. We made a real fist of it in the second half with three goals and we might have deserved something out of it - and you can see the spirit we have in abundance."
Derek McInnes has played down the importance of Aberdeen emerging from the festive schedule as principal contenders for the runners-up place in the SPFL Premiership, but while a barrage before the break should have afforded his Aberdeen side a reasonable level of comfort, they were made to fight until the end.
The home side mounted a powerful comeback with two Billy McKay strikes and one from Graeme Shinnie, but it wasn't enough. They had started the match like they ended it, with bite and aggression, offering a series of attacking moves that signalled their desire to present Hughes with a winning home start.
However, Aberdeen stood firm and when they took the lead, all the momentum swung in their favour. Barry Robson's penalty, after the ball had struck the hand of Josh Meekings, started an incredible sequence in which the Pittodrie side seemed to score at will. Ten minutes after his opener, Robson rose to glance Peter Pawlett's cross high into the net with his back to goal.
The disintegration of the Inverness gameplan continued in the 37th minute when Scott Vernon, whose contribution to the Aberdeen cause was significant, broke down the right before awaiting Pawlett's arrival in the area, his final pass good enough for his team-mate to drill home without having to break his stride.
The ever-dangerous Niall McGinn made it four when he concluded a run from the half-way line by thumping his shot past Dean Brill.
The Highlanders refused to surrender, though, and, buoyed by Hughes' half-time words they rediscovered their determination and drive. Within the opening 10 minutes of the second half, McKay netted twice to give Inverness hope of rescuing something from this game.
His first goal, in the 47th minute, came after Jamie Langfield failed to deal with a corner-kick from Carl Tremarco to afford McKay the opportunity, while the second was the result of the Northern Ireland international's tenacity and eye for the a chance, as he controlled the ball in a wide position then once more beat Langfield.
Moments later, the home side underlined that they were not finished and only the woodwork prevented Ross Draper's header, and then David Raven's shot from the rebound, from reducing their deficit.
Their harassment of the visitors, however, gave them a glimmer of hope as Shinnie's header sailed over Langfield's head and into the Aberdeen net, a goal that brought a rousing end, though not a happy one for the visitors. Aberdeen manager McInnes said: "Very rarely are you 4-0 up at half-time, but when you're playing away from home there's always the danger that if the home team get a goal, all of a sudden they start to believe. And then with our defender Mark Reynolds going off injured, we had to rejig things and they did start to believe."