Hull 1 Liverpool 3
Dirk Kuyt struck twice as title-chasing Liverpool ground out a crucial Barclays Premier League victory at Hull this afternoon.
The Reds were given a rigorous test by the relegation-threatened Tigers, who were reduced to 10 men, but held on to keep the pressure on Manchester United at the top of the table.
Kuyt put Liverpool 2-0 up after a controversial Xabi Alonso strike in the first half but Hull battled hard and pulled one back through Geovanni after Caleb Folan was sent off.
But Kuyt sealed the win in the closing minutes from close range.
Liverpool, perhaps feeling the pace after Tuesday’s pulsating 4-4 draw with Arsenal, were second best for large periods.
Hull sensed they had nothing to lose but their performance should at least offer encouragement for their remaining four games.
Yossi Benayoun created the first opening with a weaving run into the box but his shot was blocked and Fernando Torres lifted the rebound over the bar.
Benayoun, who has emerged as a strong creative force in the continued absence of the inspirational Steven Gerrard, then curled another shot over soon after.
Yet Hull, anxious for points after just one win in 17, showed an energy that belied their position and Folan spurned a chance when he failed to control in the area.
Jose Reina also needed to deal with a dipping cross from Craig Fagan and Dean Marney scuffed a 20-yard shot after being put clear by Geovanni on halfway.
Geovanni went closer himself with a ferocious shot after a clearance fell to him 30 yards out, his half-volley flashing just wide of target.
Hull also tested the Liverpool defence with a corner and a couple of long Sam Ricketts throws during a prolonged spell on the front foot but a final touch was lacking.
Geovanni then seized on a poor Reina throw only to slip as he looked to deliver a cross and Lucas almost caught the hosts on the counter-attack when he screwed a shot wide.
Kuyt then tried his luck with a fizzing a shot from the edge of the box but Boaz Myhill was not tested.
Liverpool finally made the breakthrough in the last minute of the first half, although Hull were far from happy when Javier Mascherano was ruled to have been fouled on the edge of the area.
Alonso fired the resulting free-kick into the wall but the rebound fell kindly and the Spaniard lashed home from 25 yards.
Hull continued their protests after the half-time whistle and Barmby was booked for dissent by referee Martin Atkinson.
The second half began tamely with Torres firing one half-chance too high and clipping another just over.
But the atmosphere changed markedly just before the hour as Folan was sent off for kicking out at the recalled Martin Skrtel and Atkinson threatened to lose control.
There could be no debate about the red card after Folan tussled with the defender trying to intercept a Jamie Carragher pass and then lashed out as the Slovakian went to ground.
Hull were furious at a perceived injustice and Fagan was booked moments later for clashing with Skrtel.
The hosts then switched off after Kamil Zayatte conceded a corner and a weak clearance allowed Skrtel to shoot and Kuyt to turn in the misdirected effort.
Hull still felt aggrieved and Atkinson was under intense pressure as the tackles flew in and the crowd scrutinised his every decision.
Tigers boss Phil Brown had attempted to shake things up just before Kuyt’s goal by introducing Daniel Cousin and Bernard Mendy and the pair combined for Geovanni to score after 73 minutes.
Mendy found Cousin with a long ball and the Gabon striker raced into the area before pulling back for an unmarked Geovanni to turn in.
It was the least Hull deserved but Torres almost finished them off on 80 minutes when he headed against the bar from a Kuyt cross.
Kuyt wrapped up the points two minutes from time from in front of goal after Alvaro Arbeloa’s deflected shot was pushed out by Myhill.