Inverness CT 3-4 Aberdeen
Aberdeen's first-half goal blitz carried them to victory despite Inverness's admirable fight-back in John Hughes' first home game in charge.
Barry Robson got the ball well and truly rolling with an arrowed penalty before heading another soon after.
Peter Pawlett burst forward to side-foot in the third and Niall McGinn's 18-yard shot made it four at half-time.
A quick double from Inverness's Billy McKay, followed by Graeme Shinnie's late header, made it a frantic finale.
Had Danny Williams' injury-time header from one of several dangerous Carl Tremarco corner kicks not been smothered by a clutch of red shirts on the goal-line, Christmas cheer would have been in short supply for those travelling back to Aberdeen.
Tens of fans dressed as Santa in the away end of the Caledonian Stadium had earlier been dancing with delight as the Dons swept Inverness aside in the first-half.
But they should not have underestimated the potential of a fierce Caley Thistle response, spearheaded by the ever formidable McKay in the absence of Richie Foran, who departed with a serious looking shoulder injury.
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes labelled last week's 2-0 home win over St Mirren as his side's best performance of the season so far.
At half-time it looked like that would easily be displaced by this dazzling and free-scoring showing, but the Pittodrie side have not yet properly developed the habit of doing things the straightforward way.
Aberdeen now occupy third place in the Scottish Premiership, although they remain equal on goal difference as well as points because of those three Caley Thistle strikes.
This result ended Inverness's seven-match unbeaten run. Indeed, Robson's competent spot-kick, awarded because of a clear but innocent handball by Josh Meekings, was the first time they had conceded in 485 minutes of football.
They would go on to leak another three goals in the next 22 minutes.
And it will have hurt many in the home support that it was Robson inflicting so much of the pain, having made over 150 appearances in a six-year stint with the Highland side at the start of his career.
The 35-year-old midfielder squeezed himself between Meekings and Tremarco to double Aberdeen's lead, heading Pawlett's cross from the left into Dean Brill's top corner.
The quick-fire brace was all the more remarkable given that Caley Thistle had bossed the opening exchanges.
But the hosts' shock at being two down was soon to worsen. McGinn and Russell Anderson had gone close before Pawlett scored a wonderfully worked third.
The pacey midfielder capitalised on Inverness's midfield dithering to surge forward, exchange passes with Scott Vernon and steer home a classy finish.
And McGinn added the fourth after running from inside his own half to tie Gary Warren in knots in advance of letting fly with a low right-foot strike into the corner.
The night looked a write-off for Inverness, but the atmosphere changed one minute into the second-half.
Tremarco's corner had Dons' goalkeeper Jamie Langfield flapping and the predatory McKay jabbed in what seemed like a consolation goal at the back post.
Few sides do team spirit quite like the Highlanders, who continued to come at a worried Aberdeen and would have got a second had Langfield not brilliantly denied Nick Ross.
The midfielder picked himself up from that disappointment to play in McKay, who did notch his and Inverness's second by rounding Langfield and firing in from a tight angle, despite the best efforts of Michael Hector to block it on the line.
Aberdeen's jitters increased following the loss of Mark Reynolds to a face injury. The upright denied the hosts a third twice in quick succession when Ross Draper's header and David Raven's follow-up both struck the post.
The visitors had a couple of decent chances in the second-half but it was mainly Inverness pressure, which led to Shinnie heading a third past Langfield to set up a tense five minutes of injury time for the Dons.
- 9ForanSubstituted forRavenat 45+2'minutes
- 19WilliamsBooked at 90mins
- 8DraperBooked at 14mins
- 11RossSubstituted forAgdesteinat 76'minutes
- 6ReynoldsSubstituted forHayesat 64'minutes
- 9VernonSubstituted forMagennisat 90+6'minutes
- Steven McLean
- Shots on Target