Match ends, Inverness CT 1, Motherwell 2.
Inverness CT 1-2 Motherwell
Motherwell held off a late Inverness fight back to claim all three points in the Highlands.
Craig Clay's long-range effort seemed to catch the wind slightly as it dipped sharply over Inverness keeper Owain Fon Williams and into the net to give Motherwell the lead.
Scott McDonald doubled the lead with a second three minutes from time.
Greg Tansey responded in the 90th minute but the home side could not find a leveller.
Well weather the storm
The visitors overcame a setback when Chris Cadden was forced off after just 26 minutes but his replacement, Lionel Ainsworth, nearly made an immediate impact.
Moult slid the perfect pass into the substitute's path as he sped into the inside right channel and Ainsworth guided a shot inches wide of the far post.
That sparked Caley Thistle's best spell of a fiercely contested first half, with a Ben Heneghan block preventing on-loan Fulham midfielder Larnell Cole from firing them in front.
Former Motherwell player Iain Vigurs sent a diving header against an upright from six yards and Stephen McManus threw his body in the way of a Tansey effort.
Mark McGhee has been critical of some of the individual errors that have proved costly lately but the Fir Park boss could be happy with the way his players strained every sinew to keep the Highlanders out.
Wind-assisted wonder goal
A fierce wind whipping in from the Moray Firth did not help the players produce fluent attacking football but it did play a part in Motherwell's opener after 50 minutes.
Clay fired a 25-yard drive towards Fon Williams' goal and the Welshman stood and watched in horror as the ball swerved in the wind before finding the net.
It was another painful lesson for the Highlanders as they created the better of the chances in a fiercely-contested match but failing to take any left them vulnerable.
Their fate was confirmed two minutes from time when the ywere undone on the counter attack. Louis Moult's cross set up McDonald for the Australian's eighth goal of the season.
Tansey, who earlier this week made it clear he will not extend his Inverness contract beyond the summer, did force the ball over the line from close range in the final minute but it was too little, too late for Caley Thistle.
The result means they have now taken just three points in a run of nine winless games since victory at Fir Park in October and they stay bottom on goal difference.
They approach the Highland derby on Hogmanay with the pressure intensifying but, by contrast, Motherwell can go into the Lanarkshire derby at New Douglas Park with renewed confidence.
What the managers said
Motherwell manager Mark McGhee: "For me it rates as the best result we have had since I came back to the club as it was a big challenge to come here under the circumstances and get the victory.
"I said before the game that we were nearly there but I just wanted the players to push it over the line to prove what I have been saying about them was true.
"You know we could have beaten Celtic and we could have beaten Aberdeen as we were good enough to take something from those games and this result justifies what I have been saying about the team.
"We have been in good form and now we have the result to back that up going into the Hamilton game, confident of going there and being hard to beat."
Inverness CT manager Richie Foran: "We were the better side, we hit the post and the bar and had a few cleared off the line but we need that goal poacher to make the most of the chances we are creating.
"It's not just the strikers we are talking about as the midfielders need to pitch in but we are at the stage where we need to sort the men from the boys.
"If you are a boy, don't get on that bus to Dingwall for the derby on Saturday. If you're a man, then good because we need brave men now.
"We need to play with composure and conviction because if we keep performing like that and be a little bit braver then we will get that win but the time to really worry is if you are bottom in April."
- 25Fon Williams
- 22McKayBooked at 40mins
- 7PolworthSubstituted forMulraneyat 71'minutes
- 11VigursBooked at 89mins
- 29ColeBooked at 36minsSubstituted forDoran Coganat 56'minutes
- 26DoumbouyaSubstituted forFisherat 59'minutesBooked at 77mins
- 10Doran Cogan
- 3HammellSubstituted forMcMillanat 63'minutes
- 12CaddenSubstituted forAinsworthat 26'minutes
- 9MoultBooked at 59mins
- Barry Cook
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Inverness CT 1, Motherwell 2.
Hand ball by Scott McDonald (Motherwell).
Goal! Inverness CT 1, Motherwell 2. Greg Tansey (Inverness CT) right footed shot from very close range to the centre of the goal following a corner.
Corner, Inverness CT. Conceded by Carl McHugh.
Iain Vigurs (Inverness CT) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Iain Vigurs (Inverness CT).
Louis Moult (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Inverness CT 0, Motherwell 2. Scott McDonald (Motherwell) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Louis Moult.
Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Carl Tremarco.
Aaron Doran (Inverness CT) hits the bar with a right footed shot from the centre of the box.
Iain Vigurs (Inverness CT) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Scott McDonald (Motherwell).
Alex Fisher (Inverness CT) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Alex Fisher (Inverness CT).
Lee Lucas (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Gary Warren.
Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Brad McKay.
Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Ross Draper.
Foul by Jake Mulraney (Inverness CT).
Craig Clay (Motherwell) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Substitution, Inverness CT. Jake Mulraney replaces Liam Polworth.
Attempt saved. Lionel Ainsworth (Motherwell) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Craig Clay (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ross Draper (Inverness CT).
Attempt missed. Gary Warren (Inverness CT) header from the left side of the six yard box misses to the left following a corner.
Corner, Inverness CT. Conceded by Scott McDonald.
Corner, Inverness CT. Conceded by Craig Samson.
Corner, Inverness CT. Conceded by Jack McMillan.
Attempt saved. Aaron Doran (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Substitution, Motherwell. Jack McMillan replaces Steven Hammell because of an injury.
Attempt missed. Greg Tansey (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left.
Corner, Inverness CT. Conceded by Craig Samson.
Brad McKay (Inverness CT) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Steven Hammell (Motherwell).
Substitution, Inverness CT. Alex Fisher replaces Lonsana Doumbouya.
Louis Moult (Motherwell) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Gary Warren (Inverness CT) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Louis Moult (Motherwell).
Attempt saved. Aaron Doran (Inverness CT) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.