THEY were there; Championship survival was in Alloa’s hands. Then Inverness Caley Thistle cruelly flexed their muscles, scored twice in quick succession, and dragged the Wasps back into Purgatory.

Alloa certainly gave it their all in a slow burning, attritional match in the Wee County, but the quality of John Robertson’s Scottish Cup semi-finalists eventually proved too hot to handle.

Yet, having led for large parts of the game thanks to Alan Trouten’s first half penalty – his 19th strike of a prolific season – the sombre feeling of deflation after the game would have led an oblivious passersby to ponder whether they had taken a wrong turn and ended up at a wake.

The quality of Scott McDonald had turned the game on its head in the Glasgow sunshine last week, but this time the Wasps could blame nothing but themselves for two sloppy goals which left Jim Goodwin in a despondent, if defiant, mood.

It looked like Alloa’s stubborn defending was going to be enough to thwart the Highlanders until Shaun Rooney was given the freedom of the county to pick out Neil Parry’s bottom corner in the 68th minute.

The space afforded to the fullback on the edge of the Alloa penalty area was criminal, coming on the end of a period of incessant pressure from the visitors. After Andy Graham and Scott Taggart scrambled a loose ball in the box clear, Rooney made no mistake with a superb finish.

Sadly for those cheering on the Wasps, the worst of the pain was to come. Less than five minutes later, Inverness lumped a succession of corners into Alloa’s box and eventually found success when Charlie Trafford slotted home at the front post after escaping the attention of Liam Dick.

For so long in this game, they had more than matched the team destined to compete for a place in the top tier next season thanks to a number of determined displays across the park. No less so than Dario Zanatta, who was a constant thorn in the visitor’s side.

It was the Canadian’s run into the box midway through the first half which led to Alloa’s penalty as he fell to the ground under Coll Donaldson’s challenge.

Inverness protested to the softness of the call, but Trouten wasn’t caring as he coolly slotted past Cammy Mackay to put survival within sight.

The goal was one of the few moments of real quality or excitement in a nervy first half. A Zanatta cross had forced Mackay to push a ball away for a corner before Graham nodded Iain Flannigan’s inviting delivery narrowly over.

Later, Zanatta did brilliantly to get on the end of his own header to send Alloa on the attack, before laying it off to Jack Aitchison. With only Mackay to beat, the Celtic loanee blasted the ball straight at the keeper.

Inverness looked every bit the team with nothing to play for and only really had a Jordan White effort of note in the opening period.

However, undoubtedly spurned on by some harsh words at half time, they were a very different beast in the second half. Steven Hetherington - who was superb in the middle of the park - had to nod a Rooney effort off the line after just a minute into the half as Alloa’s recent curse threatened to strike again.

Inverness looked sharper, hungrier, and more direct, and yet the Wasps should have been celebrating a second. Aitchison did brilliantly to find space and cut the ball across goal but the usually dependable Trouten fired over under pressure.

Inverness soon made Alloa pay for their profligacy when they hit them with the quick-fire double.

Down but not out, the Wasps had a hatful of chances in the last five minutes to square the game. Jordan Kirkpatrick’s powerful shot proved too hot for Mackay to handle but the keeper responded quickly to block Jack Hamilton’s follow-up.

Then, in amongst a penalty shout for Andy Graham, Connor Shields’ effort at the back post was blocked by Mackay before Kirkpatrick blasted an effort agonisingly over the bar at the death.