On this occasion, the Tigers, direct and determined, can be proud of their performance as they stood toe to toe with Manchester United.
But they will play next season in the Championship after relegation was confirmed on an anti-climactic final day of the season.
Even a first win victory over their illustrious opponents since 1974 would not have been enough. Hull needed to take three points and cross everything that Newcastle failed to do the same against West Ham United at St James’s Park.
Steve Bruce needed a big favour from his close friend Sam Allardyce but it never arrived. Bruce, who signed a three-year contract last month, says he will lead Hull’s attempt to restore their top-flight status – if he is allowed to.
“I hope I’m given the opportunity to do so,” Bruce said.
“I’ve not been good enough. I’ll reflect on that and have a conversation with the powers that be. We all know a contract means nothing in football.
“The feeling at the moment is raw disappointment, not just for myself but for everyone concerned, not least the fans. They’ve given a standing ovation to the players but we’ve faield them and let them down. We simply haven’t been good enough.”
For the most part, Hull were better than United, who had Marouane Fellaini sent off. The hosts had two goals disallowed and saw chances for Ahmed Elmohamady and Nikica Jelavic superbly kept out by Victor Valdes on his full debut for the visitors.
The performance may well evoke ire, rather than consolation for Bruce. If they had performed as well against, for instance, Burnley, Leicester City and Newcastle, then safety would have been assured weeks ago.
Record signing Abel Hernandez has failed to impress and his airshot with the goal at his mercy in the closing stages yesterday summed up the Uruguayan’s season.
It was one of a succession of near misses for Hull who attacked repeatedly, after Wayne Rooney had clipped the bar with a shot from 20 yards. Valdes could well be United’s No. 1 next season if David De Gea decides Real Madrid is for him but the stand-in stopper endured a mixed afternoon.
Valdes spilled Robbie Brady’s free-kick but was spared embarrassment as Paul McShane’s close-range finish was ruled out for offside.
Within a minute, Valdes showed his quality with a fine low save to keep out Elmohamady’s header from another Brady delivery and the hosts had another goal disallowed moments later.
Brady’s corner found its way to Stephen Quinn and the Ireland international’s goalbound shot was flicked in by Dame N’Doye, who was offside in the six-yard box.
Louis van Gaal omitted Radamel Falcao from his squad and last night confirmed the Colombian is returning to Monaco after a miserable season on loan at Old Trafford.
“Falcao is a top professional and a good human being. On behalf of myself and everyone at the club I would like to wish him well for the future,” Van Gaal said.
Angel Di Maria’s future is also in doubt. He started for the first time since March but lasted just 22 minutes before being substituted with a minor hamstring strain.
Hull were on top and David Meyler should have put them ahead but side-footed over from 12 yards and the atmosphere was almost immediately subdued as news of Moussa Sissoko’s goal on Tyneside made its way to smartphones in East Yorkshire.
Still the Tigers pressed. Daley Blind hacked the ball clear from close to his own goal line after Michael Dawson’s header caused panic in the United area before Brady’s cross-shot curled narrowly wide of Valdes’s post.
Valdes reacted sharply to keep out Nikica Jelavic’s flick at the near post after a low ball in from substitute Sone Aluko before Fellaini was dismissed for a reckless challenge that left the excellent McShane needing treatment in a delicate part of his person.
Van Gaal was not impressed with Fellaini’s contribution. “For him it is unbelievably stupid because next season he starts [suspended] and then in preparation he starts as a sub.”
The delay meant seven minutes stoppage time, which, with Newcastle having won 2-0, served only to prolong Hull’s agony.
Harper 7; Chester 7 (Hernandez, 70, 5), Dawson 7, McShane 8; Elmohamady 7, Meyler 6 (Robertson, 86), Huddlestone 7, Quinn 7; Jelavic 6, N’Doye 7 (Aluko, 70, 6)
Valdes 7; Valencia 6, Jones 7, Smalling 7, Rojo 6; Herrera 6, Blind 7, Young 6 (Fellaini, 59, 3); Mata 6 (Wilson, 72, 6), Rooney 6, Di Maria 5 (Januzaj, 23, 6)
Lee Probert 6.