Hull City 2 Stoke City 1
Hull manager Phil Brown breathed again as Seyi Olofinjana and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink fired his side to a priceless win over 10-man Stoke this afternoon.
The struggling Tigers had been heading for yet another damaging Barclays Premier League defeat – and Brown possibly for the sack – after Matthew Etherington’s first-half strike at the KC Stadium.
But Hull were rewarded for their greater endeavour as Olofinjana levelled against his former club and substitute Vennegoor of Hesselink won it in the final minute, moments after Abdoulaye Faye was sent off.
Hull had looked a different side for the presence of record signing Jimmy Bullard, making his long-awaited home debut after 10 injury-ravaged months.
They started with determination and Bullard, playing as Brown made five changes for what had been billed as a do-or-die match for the manager, was immediately to the fore.
The former Fulham man had his first chance when he fired well over after five minutes and then went closer with a low shot that went narrowly wide moments later.
Ricardo Fuller shot from similar range as Stoke enjoyed their first chance but Matt Duke, continuing to deputise for the injured Boaz Myhill, parried.
Bernard Mendy made an even more ambitious attempt for Hull from just inside the Stoke half but it flew wildly into the crowd.
The Frenchman then played in recalled striker Jozy Altidore but the American shot across the face of goal.
Mendy, playing at right-back, was keen to get forward and put Richard Garcia in on goal with another good through ball.
The Australian managed to get a shot away as he closed in on keeper Thomas Sorensen but Glenn Whelan slid in to deflect behind.
Mendy, however, showed his weakness in defence when he was booked for a late challenge on Etherington as Stoke launched a counter-attack.
Garcia should then have done better as Stephen Hunt floated in a cross to the back post but Sorensen dealt easily with his header.
Mendy was found wanting as Etherington raced onto a long ball from Ryan Shawcross down the right and burst into the area to give Stoke the lead after 30 minutes.
Etherington was completely unchallenged as he ran through and beat Duke at the near post.
The goal came against the run of play but Hull responded well and Altidore headed narrowly wide after Garcia had twice been given an opportunity to cross.
Olofinjana looked to have an even better chance before the interval but opted to pass instead of shooting and Stoke cleared.
James Beattie curled a free-kick over as Stoke made the better start to the second period.
Hull were then fortunate not to go 2-0 down as Anthony Gardner almost turned the ball into his own net after 54 minutes.
Etherington played a one-two with Fuller and his cross looked goalbound after being diverted by Gardner but the wrong-footed Duke just managed to get a touch to force it wide.
That save kept Hull in the game and Olofinjana claimed a superb equaliser just after the hour that made amends for his earlier profligacy.
Collecting the ball from Hunt, the Nigerian turned two Stoke players on the edge of the area and then clipped a curling shot over Sorensen and into the top corner.
It was his first goal since scoring for Stoke against Arsenal a year ago and the manner of it begged the question of why he did not shoot earlier, or when he was similarly placed at Burnley last week.
Hull caused further alarm in the Stoke area when Sorensen failed to claim an Altidore header but Craig Fagan was unable to scramble the ball in.
Altidore turned on the edge of the area as Hull pushed forward again but missed the target.
Hull survived a scare with eight minutes remaining when Whelan lofted in a free-kick and Ryan Shawcross hit the bar with a looping header.
Stoke were left hanging on after Faye was dismissed with eight minutes remaining as a late challenge on Nick Barmby earned a second yellow card.
Pulis responded by taking off substitute Tuncay Sanli, who had been on the field just six minutes, and putting on Andy Wilkinson.
The extra defender did not help and Vennegoor of Hesselink, who had himself just come off the bench, was on hand to score the winner after a Bullard shot was beaten out by Sorensen.