Inverness Caledonian Thistle managed to make it through 2010 and more than a month of 2009 without losing away from home a record that St Johnstone brought to an end just two days into 2011.
Just as the Highlanders looked to be heading back north with their run extended to 20 games, an 85th-minute strike from substitute Collin Samuel won the match for Saints.
Saints boss Derek McInnes said, “We’ve done very well in our last five or six away games, so it’s pleasing to get this home win.
“We’ve got three home games in hand and we’ll be looking to build on this and take advantage of them.”
His opposite number, Terry Butcher, said, “I felt we were poor in all departments compared to the standards we set during the run.”
As expected, captain Jody Morris took his place in the centre of the Saints midfield after serving a one-match suspension last week against Celtic.
The only other change to the starting line-up from Parkhead was Peter MacDonald for Samuel.
Murray Davidson had recovered from an ankle injury but only made the bench.
Butcher also made two changes from Inverness’ last match-a midweek home defeat to Kilmarnock, with Chris Innes and Gil Blumenshtein replacing Richie Foran and Russell Duncan.RaidingOn six minutes MacDonald spotted Dave Mackay raiding down the right touchline and laid the ball into his path. The full-back whipped over a cross that Sam Parkin narrowly failed to connect with.
Liam Craig was anticipated it coming through to the back post, but he didn’t manage to direct his shot on target.
A clever Morris pass from left midfield caught Ross Tokely flat-footed and Cleveland Taylor drifted in behind him.
However, his angled shot on the turn found the target, but didn’t trouble Inverness keeper Ryan Esson.
On 18 minutes Taylor hit the bye-line and hung up a perfectly weighted cross for Parkin to attack.
However, close attention by Tokely ensured his header lacked the authority to beat Esson.
It was mid-way through the half before Butcher’s men managed a shot on goal, when Adam Rooney forced a decent save out of Peter Enckelman after he was put through by Nick Ross.
MacDonald struck a fierce effort from an acute angle four minutes from the interval, which Esson could only parry.
Parkin was first to the rebound, but his header was weak and Inverness were able to clear.
Chris Millar then went on a determined run down the right and tried to pick out MacDonald.
Lee Cox got to the low cross before the Saints striker, and was fortunate his interception went straight into his keeper’s arms.
Inverness had a more purposeful look about them in the early stages of the second half, and on 51 minutes Ross beat Craig, only to see his over-hit cross strike the crossbar.ThreatenEric Odhiambo was the next to threaten the Saints defence and Enckelman was at full stretch to deal with his shot, which took a deflection off Danny Grainger.
The Perth side weathered this spell of Inverness dominance and carved out a couple of chances of their own.
On 66 minutes Craig and Millar linked up in midfield, with the latter driving into the box and crossing into the six-yard box, where Mackay connected only to see his shot blocked by Esson.
Then three minutes later, second half substitute Davidson picked out Grainger, who blazed his shot from 10 yards over the bar.
With 15 minutes left an even better opportunity fell to Samuel, who had come on for MacDonald.
Grant Munro was short with a headed back pass, but Samuel, who won the ball, shot straight at Esson.
Enckelman produced his best save of the game on 83 minutes when he clawed away an Odhiambo shot that was bound for the bottom right-hand corner.
Two minutes later Saints scored their winning goal following an outswinging corner from Craig.
Mackay beat Esson, only to see Foran clear off the line-however, the ball fell to Samuel who hit the ball home from point-blank range.
Samuel said, “The gaffer sent me on to make something happen, so I was delighted to be in the right place to score.”
Caley Thistle’s Cox and Shane Sutherland were the only men to be booked.
St Johnstone Enckelman, Mackay, Grainger, Anderson (Maybury 62), Duberry, Morris, Millar, Craig, Taylor (Davidson 58), Parkin, MacDonald (Samuel 72). Subs not used-Smith, Caddis, Reynolds, May.
Inverness CT Esson, Tokely, Duff, Cox (Sutherland 71), Odhiambo, Rooney, Munro, Innes, Blumenshtein (Foran 46), Ross, Shinnie. Subs not used-Tuffey, Golabek, Duncan, McBain, Sanchez.
Referee George Salmond.