The former Tottenham defender’s header was enough to edge the Tigers to victory against a Liverpool team that lacked cutting edge for the second successive match.
“We’ve scored 47 goals and this time last season it was over 90 so that’s the reality of where we are,” said Reds boss Brendan Rodgers.
The defeat left Liverpool seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester United with four matches to play. For Hull, the victory was sweet and they are now four points clear of the relegation drop zone and ensured the vast majority of supporters at the KC Stadium went home happy.
“We need another win – Arsenal won’t fancy coming here next Monday after seeing that,” said Hull goalscoring hero Dawson.
Liverpool sold their allocation of about 2,500 but the away end was only about half full as fans displayed their displeasure with the £48 asking price for a ticket.
Some who had boycotted the match gathered at Anfield to protest against prices in a demonstration organised by supporters group Spirit of Shankly.
Hull fans have their own gripes, in particular with Assem Allam, the club’s owner, an his ongoing ambition to rebrand the club as Hull Tigers. A significant section of supporters in the North Stand made their opinions heard with chants of “Allam Out” but the mood among them was better when Dawson gave Hull the lead.
Hull had bodies forward for a corner and Liverpool’s defenders thought they were all offside as Ahmed Elmohamady’s cross came in from the right. Most of them were, but Dawson was not and he headed the ball beyond Mignolet to score his first goal for Hull since signing from Tottenham in the summer.
Though they failed to take maximum points, Liverpool dominated against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday and Rodgers described his team’s performance as “outstanding”. He made just one change to his starting line-up, with club captain Steven Gerrard – who showed signs of cramp late on at the Hawthorns – being left out of the squad.
In the first 30 minutes alone in East Yorkshire, Hull posed more of a threat to Liverpool than they had faced in the West Midlands.
Hull had ignited their survival mission in impressive style with a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace on Saturday, with a double from Dame N’Doye and the Senegal striker went close to an early opener. The January signing saw his header from six yards pushed away by Simon Mignolet after Sone Aluko’s cross from the left.
At the other end, Steve Harper showed sharp reflexes that belied his 40 years to keep out a first-time shot from Philippe Coutinho after Jordan Henderson’s corner but Mignolet was soon back under pressure.
Ireland wide man Robbie Brady breezed past right-back Emre Can to deliver a devilish cross into the six-yard box and Mignolet punched the ball out as far as Jake Livermore.
Livermore’s header was goalbound but the Liverpool goalkeeper again beat the ball away before the ball was hacked clear for a corner.
It was a good period for Hull and they made it count when Dawson capitalised on poor organisation in the Liverpool defence to score.
Glen Johnson, from left back, attempted to lead Liverpool’s response and he carried the ball as far as the byeline but saw his low, drilled cross, elude everyone in a crowded Hull penalty area. While N’Doye and the excellent Sone Aluko meant Hull were a constant threat on the break, the hosts, unsurprisingly, spent most of the second half having to defend.
The Tigers were indebted to Harper when he dived low to his right to keep out a snap-shot from Henderson after Coutinho’s deflected shot fell kindly for the Liverpool captain before Rodgers brought on Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana in place of Balotelli and Jordon Ibe, who had both failed to make an impression on proceedings.
A Henderson drive from 20 yards tested Harper, who gathered the ball at the second attempt. Chances for the hosts were fleeting and Paul McShane saw his header hit Henderson and fly narrowly wide after James Chester flicked on Brady’s corner.
There was time for one last chance for Liverpool as Lallana found space to curl an effort towards goal but the ball drifted narrowly wide.
It summed up Liverpool’s night.
(3-5-2): Harper 7; Chester 8, Dawson 8, McShane 8, Elmohamady 7, Livermore 7, Huddlestone 7, Quinn 7 (Ramirez, 82), Brady 7; Aluko 7(Bruce, 85), N’Doye 7 (Rosenior, 89).
Mignolet 7; Can 6, Skrtel 6, Lovren 6 (Markovic, 74), Johnson 6; Allen 6; Ibe 5 (Lallana, 65, 6), Henderson 6, Coutinho 6, Sterling 5; Balotelli 5 (Lambert, 65, 6).
Lee Probert 6