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Migratory insertion (MI) is one of the most important processes underpinning the transition metal-catalysed formation of C-C and C-X bonds. In this work, a comprehensive model of MI is presented, based on the direct observation of the states involved in the coupling of alkynes with cyclometallated ligands, augmented with insight from computational chemistry. Time-resolved spectroscopy demonstrates that photolysis of complexes [Mn(C^N)(CO)4] (C^N = cyclometalated ligand) results in ultra-fast dissociation of a CO ligand. Performing the experiment in a toluene solution of an alkyne results in the initial formation of a solvent complex fac-[Mn(C^N)(toluene)(CO)3]. Solvent substitution gives an η2-alkyne complex fac-[Mn(C^N)(η2-R1C2R2)(CO)3] which undergoes MI of the unsaturated ligand into the Mn-C bond. These data allowed for the dependence of second order rate constants for solvent substitution and first order rate constants for C-C bond formation to be determined. A systematic investigation into the influence of the alkyne and C^N ligand on this process is reported. The experimental data enabled the development of a computational model for the MI reaction which demonstrated that a synergic interaction between the metal and the nascent C-C bond controls both the rate and regiochemical outcome of the reaction. The time-resolved spectroscopic method enabled the observation of a multi-step reaction occurring over 8 orders of magnitude in time, including the formation of solvent complexes, ligand substitution and two sequential C-C bond formation steps.