6:16:12 PMInverness CT 3-1 Kilmarnock
Inverness CT 3-1 Kilmarnock
The deadlock was broken on 42 minutes when John Rankin's drive was blocked by goalkeeper Alan Combe, only for Niculae to pounce from close range.
Soon after the restart, Cowie cracked in a sweet finish from defender Richard Hastings' neat cross.
And, with 15 minutes remaining, Niculae drilled in his second before Colin Nish grabbed a late penalty for Killie.
Caley Thistle stay in eighth spot but are now just one point behind fourth-placed Dundee United in a congested mid-table.
The Highlanders were the stronger team throughout and could have won by a more handsome margin but for the form of Combe.
The visiting keeper had to look smart to turn away Phil McGuire's well-improvised over-head kick.
Home striker Graham Bayne then directed a firm header wide from Cowie's cross.
Kilmarnock finally threatened in the 25th minute, but when Gary Wales found David Fernandez with a perfectly-weighted through-ball, Michael Fraser was in the right place to make a stop with his foot.
Nish then made his presence felt for the first time in latching on to a cross from Garry Hay, but Fraser dived low to save.
Niculae came close seven minutes before the interval when his 25-yard shot was beaten away by Combe.
But the Romanian was not to be denied and turned the ball into the net after Rankin's expertly controlled shot was too hot to handle for the Kilmarnock keeper.
Inverness took control of the game following the restart and it did not take them long to double their advantage.
Hastings turned the ball into the path of Cowie, who showed a touch of class in dispatching his shot past Combe.
Hastings then had a shot saved by Combe and when the ball came back to the Canadian he carelessly stabbed over.
The impressive Niculae clipped a 25-yard drive just wide and then slalomed through a ragged Kilmarnock defence to crack a shot off Combe.
Niculae had another shot which was marginally off target but the forward's persistence paid off when he finally got a second goal.
The visiting keeper did well to stop Bayne's well-struck effort, only for the ball to land at the feet of Cowie.
An eager Niculae nicked the ball from the midfielder's toes and blasted a shot into the net that Combe could not keep out despite managing to get a hand to the ball.
With four minutes remaining Nish scored a consolation from the penalty spot following a handball by Grant Munro.
Inverness CT: Fraser, Tokely, McGuire (Proctor 88), Munro, Hastings, Cowie, Black, Duncan, Rankin, Bayne (Wyness 83), Niculae. Subs Not Used: Malkowski, Duff, Wilson, Vigurs, McAllister.
Goals: Niculae 42, Cowie 52, Niculae 76.
Kilmarnock: Combe, Hamill, Ford, O'Leary, Hay, Fernandez (Johnston 79), Fowler, Bryson (Koudou 72), Taouil, Nish, Wales. Subs Not Used: Harpur, Clancy, Noble, Locke, Flannigan.
Goal: Nish 87 pen.
Ref: C MacKay
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