Inverness Caledonian Thistle have been relegated from the Scottish Premiership despite beating Motherwell.
Hamilton’s win over Dundee meant Caley Thistle could not leapfrog the Accies into second-bottom place, regardless of their result against the Steelmen.
After a drab first period, Greg Tansey and Alex Fisher – twice – struck for the hosts in four second-half minutes.
But Accies’ triumph rendered the goals moot, as Caley exit the top flight for the first time since returning in 2010.
Veteran striker James McFadden came off the bench to nod home a consolation for Motherwell, before Ryan Bowman netted a stoppage-time penalty to add gloss to the scoreline.
Caley Thistle’s fate long sealed
For Inverness, the damage had been done long before Saturday, with the midweek victory over Dundee – the second of three post-split wins – simply prolonging the agony.
It will perhaps be the decisions to be taken off the field that will matter most in the immediate future.
Just two years ago, the club lifted the Scottish Cup and played European football. It has been a dramatic descent over the course of this season.
Come the final day, Hamilton’s early goals in Lanarkshire clearly had an impact on this match.
Inverness opened brightly with Louis Laing testing Motherwell goalkeeper Russell Griffiths from long distance.
Liam Polworth screwed a great chance wide, then Ross Draper curled over from a fabulous position when it seemed an opener was imminent.
Some of the pressure might have been transferred to Hamilton had Richie Foran’s men taken the lead first, but the atmosphere changed in the stadium when news of Accies’ two-goal first-half lead filtered through.
Inverness at least got the win they needed to have a chance of survival thanks to three quick-fire goals.
Midfielder Tansey, in his final game for the club before departing for Aberdeen, netted a powerful drive before striker Fisher fired two in quick succession.
As Accies scored a third, then a fourth goal at New Douglas Park, it became brutally apparent that, yet again this season, it was not to be Caley Thistle’s day.
Job done for Steelmen
The match meant little to Motherwell beyond professional pride, and managing as high a final league position as possible – their Premiership status was secured before this final fixture.
The travelling support had a moment to cheer when McFadden converted after Elliot Frear struck the bar, before Bowman scored from the spot to reduce the deficit further.
For manager Stephen Robinson, the real test follows in assembling a squad to improve on this season.
For Inverness, the coming days and weeks will be instrumental in their short-term future, which now lies as a Scottish Championship club.
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson: “I thought first half we were very good, controlled the game. We made changes second half, brought a young boy [Adam Livingstone] on and he made a couple of mistakes, but he’ll get better and better.
“That’s what we do at this club – we give young kids a chance, and unfortunately they make some mistakes, but he’ll learn from that and he’s one for the future.
“We’ve got 14 contracted players at this moment. We might have to do a little bit of wheeling and dealing to get some people out, and get better players in, if we’re being honest.
“We’re down there this season for a reason. We weren’t good enough, and we have to be prudent with what we do to make sure we’re not down there again next season.
“The league’s going to get stronger next year, so our first and foremost is always to get survival. Within the confines of our dressing room we aim a lot higher, but first and foremost is to stay up and build from there.”