Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink eased the pressure on Hull manager Phil Brown as his stoppage time strike clinched a crucial 2-1 win against 10-man Stoke on Sunday.
Brown has been fighting to save his job after presiding over a woeful run of just three wins in 33 league games, but he can sleep a little easier after Dutch striker Vennegoor of Hesselink capped a spirited fightback.
Newly appointed Tigers chairman Adam Pearson, back for his second spell at the club, has been publicly supportive of Brown, yet only positive results could save him from the axe.
So when Matthew Etherington gave Stoke a first half lead at the KC Stadium, Brown must have feared the worst.
However, Hull’s Nigeria midfielder Seyi Olofinjana scored a superb equaliser against his former club before Stoke’s Abdoulaye Faye was sent off in the closing stages for two bookings.
That was the signal for a late Hull barrage of pressure and Vennegoor of Hesselink was on hand to turn in the winner from Jimmy Bullard’s shot and lift the Tigers out of the relegation zone.
Brown could have felt it wasn’t going to be his day when Hull had an unsuccessful early appeal for a penalty. Jozy Altidore went down under a challenge from Ryan Shawcross but referee Mike Dean waved away their protests.
Inevitably Bullard, making his first start for Hull after injury, looked rusty after so long out as he rampaged forward for two shots that had plenty of venom but little accuracy.
Hull winger Stephen Hunt floated in a cross to Richard Garcia but his header was easily saved by Thomas Sorensen.
It was a costly miss as Stoke took the lead with a devastating break in the 29th minute.
Right-back Bernard Mendy was caught out of position as Etherington raced on to a long ball from Shawcross and advanced unopposed before shooting past Matt Duke at the near post.
Altidore headed narrowly wide from Garcia’s cross as Hull strained for an equaliser.
Hull were lucky not to fall further behind early in the second half when defender Anthony Gardner almost turned Etherington’s cross into his own net and Duke just managed to get a touch to force it wide.
With Brown’s future in the balance, Olofinjana came to the rescue with a superb equaliser in the 62nd minute. He took possession from Hunt’s pass on the edge of the Stoke penalty area and dispatched a curling shot over Sorensen and into the top corner for his first goal in 12 months.
Stoke were hanging on after Faye was dismissed in the 82nd minute after a late challenge on Nick Barmby earned a second yellow card.
But they couldn’t survive and Vennegoor of Hesselink, who had just come off the bench, was perfectly placed to score the winner after Bullard’s shot was pushed out by Sorensen.
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