Hearts manager John McGlynn declared himself proud of the fight of his youthful team after they lifted the "doom and gloom" around Tynecastle by reaching the Scottish Communities League Cup final.
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A Hearts side that finished with 10 men following Scott Robinson's red card held on for a 1-1 draw against Inverness at Easter Road before winning 5-4 on penalties following Philip Roberts' miss.
Michael Ngoo scored on his debut to cancel out Andrew Shinnie's opener and Hearts held on despite Inverness striker Billy McKay getting set up for an open goal before Hearts got players back and Jamie MacDonald saved from Shinnie.
Hearts warned they were in danger of going out of business in November but fans raised £1million to keep the club's head above water and they now have another trip to Hampden to look forward to following last year's thrashing of Hibernian in the William Hill Scottish Cup final.
"It's massive," McGlynn said. "It's a great boost for the fans because there has been a lot of doom and gloom this season.
"There has been a lot of negativity, and hands up, a lot we have brought on ourselves.
"But nevertheless it's great for the fans to go back to Hampden.
"It was great here, they must have seen the fight in the players.
"How Inverness didn't score the opportunity when it was two against one was partly their fault but our players had the fight to get back and stop the ball going in the net.
"We had seven under-21s on that park, five of them came through our youth system, and other players over 21 who came through our youth academy.
"So we owe a big thanks to everyone who has worked in our youth system.
"Financially it's a massive boost as well because the football club is not out the woods yet."
McGlynn has had his own wages delayed and dealt with major cuts to the playing budget since returning from Raith Rovers in the summer but the lifelong Hearts supporter will get his reward when he leads the team out at Hampden on March 17.
"It will be a very proud day," he said. "I'm very proud of the performance and the fight of the players today.
"It will be a special, special occasion to do that.
"That's why I came back to Hearts, they are a team over the past 100 years who are fighting for third in the league and involved in semi-finals and finals.
"That's part of why you follow Hearts and come back to Hearts to be part of that and I'm delighted after seven or eight months that we are going back to Hampden."
McGlynn made six changes, starting Ngoo 24 hours after he signed on loan from Liverpool and giving right-back Fraser Mullen and midfielder Callum Tapping their second appearances.
McGlynn said: "Everything's a risk but Fraser's a natural right-back. We lost Ryan McGowan and Darren Barr has played there the last few weeks but was suspended.
"During the week we tried a few things and Fraser looked the best option. It's not rocket science.
"He is great on the ball and has great delivery.
"I thought the midfield combination of Tapping, (Jason) Holt and Robinson worked a treat. You don't need to be 6ft 4in to play. Jamie Walker was great and we had the option to hit big Michael, who brought others into play.
"We knew he would be a surprise for the Inverness players and I think he was a handful."
McGlynn had no complaints over the decision of Euan Norris to send off Robinson for a two-footed tackle on Owain Tudur Jones. Norris also booked nine players.
"It did look like Scott was over the ball," he added. "I thought he was in control of himself though.
"I'm not going to talk any more about the officials because I don't want to end up sitting in the stand."
Inverness travelled to Edinburgh unbeaten in 10 games and having only lost to Celtic and Motherwell previously this season, and manager Terry Butcher found defeat hard to stomach, although he made a point of congratulating Hearts and McGlynn for his bold team selection.
"We had enough chances to win two or three games but we didn't take them and it's not like us," Butcher said.
"It's an unusual feeling because we haven't lost for ages.
"It still hurts though. I think a fire extinguisher went missing off the wall when I came in. I don't like losing.
"I said to the players I don't want to have this feeling again for the rest of the season if we can.
"We have had a right kick in the privates and we have to bounce back."
Butcher had comforting words for on-loan Arsenal striker Roberts, who missed after nine penalties were scored.
"He took one at Stenhousemuir and scored," Butcher said. "It's disappointing for him but we win together and lose together."
The failure of McKay, who saw an early one-on-one saved, to finish off his glorious extra-time chance after scoring 20 times this season added to Caley Thistle's disappointment.
"The whole bench got up in front of me and I couldn't really see what was going on," Butcher said.
"I was hoping they were going to jump about in delight and they didn't.
"We have had other good chances and it's hard to take but we just have to move on and make sure we come back even stronger and more positive."