Dundee United, a goal to the good but coming under increasing pressure, had Nadir Ciftci sent off - some say for grasping Graeme Shinnie in a headlock, others claim that he had him by the throat - amid a fierce 20-man brawl, losing their composure and, ultimately, the game.
With it went their chance of a place in the last four of the Scottish League Cup, Ross Draper's towering header from Danny Williams' cross in the final minutes of extra time ensuring the hosts progressed. In the end, it was a merited victory but the drama of this tie cannot be understated. It was compelling stuff. Twelve players were booked - eight from United - with Ciftci, the visitors' Turkish forward red-carded and a member of the respective management teams ordered to the stand as it descended into chaos shortly before the break.
The catalyst? Inverness were denied a throw they thought they deserved. Richie Foran, the captain of the home side appeared to barge Gary Mackay-Steven to the ground, prompting something akin to a riot as fights and skirmishes broke out while referee Kevin Clancy struggled to cope. "Gary took one in the side of the face; I thought there was a foul committed and I thought that the assistant saw it as well," said Jackie McNamara, the United manager. "Ironically, we had emphasised the importance of discipline and I think we lost it a bit at times."
It took several minutes for the dust to clear, after which the match official - aided by his assistant, Gavin Harris, and fourth official, Greg Aitken - flashed a red card in the face of Ciftci, who had raised his hand to Inverness full-back Carl Tremarco, himself booked for his part in the affair. Paul Paton and Gavin Gunning of United were also yellow-carded, while Terry Butcher was sent to the stand having raged at the referee and was joined by Darren Jackson, the United coach, who had made his feelings known to Mr Aitken. "Things happened in there that shouldn't have happened," said Maurice Malpas, the Inverness assistant, archly.
When play resumed, the visitors were still in the lead thanks to Keith Watson's fifth-minute goal but were very much at a disadvantage for the remaining 80-odd minutes of play. A het-up Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong were removed at the interval as McNamara, who had restored the latter as well as Sean Dillon and Watson to his XI, moved to stiffen his side and the manner in which United's walking wounded carried on was impressive, even if Inverness did haul themselves level.
Butcher's men, who had enjoyed a large amount of possession, created a succession of openings and finally found a way through when defender Gary Warren rose above all to head in Graham Shinnie's cross to haul the hosts back on terms.
It was the least the Highlanders deserved given the weight of chances they had. Irish winger Aaron Doran tested Radoslaw Cierzniak from distance then sent a tantalising low ball across goal hoping Billy McKay might make contact in the six-yard box, only for the ball to whizz past him. Later, Doran would give the Polish goalkeeper another fright with a fierce 20-yard shot. Perhaps their best chance, though, was a powerful Marley Watkins header, the cross coming from Carl Tremarco, which Cierzniak stopped miraculously.
United were not without their own chances, though. Andrew Robertson skidded wide from 25 yards in the opening moments but that was just a warning for Inverness as, a couple of minutes later, Watson pushed wide from his right-back position to accept Ryan Gauld's measured pass before rifling his angled shot high into the Inverness net.
In the end, it was worth nothing. "I'm gutted for the players to go that long with 10 men and lose but I'm proud of desire to keep going when things were against us," said McNamara, who confirmed that Ciftci was dismissed for violent conduct. "The giants came forward and we held on well give the pressure we were under but we feel hard done by. I don't think we got the right decisions and we're out of the cup because of that. I think we'll take it further but we'll go back and study it."