A 2-0 defeat at home to Cardiff City on Saturday put a halt on Hull City's progress up the Championship table, but it will be a major surprise if the reverse was anything but a temporary silencing of the Tigers' roar. Nigel Pearson's side have been one of the form teams of the division in the last three months and are still within touching distance of the play-offs.
Considering the turmoil Hull were in at the start of the season, their turnaround has been remarkable. New owners have brought new life – and much needed cash – into the club, while Pearson has quickly built a team capable of living with the best the division can offer. Saturday's defeat was only Hull's second in their last 19 Championship matches and there was certainly no disgrace in losing to one of the favourites for automatic promotion.
"When we had chances we were unable to take them," Pearson acknowledged after the match. "In the last couple of months we've done to sides what Cardiff have done to us. You have to recognise we came up against a good side today and they were better than us.
"The players are very disappointed because we know it's a game we could have got something out of – and that shows how far we've come. But we need to bounce back. The bigger picture is that we could say it's a missed opportunity, but another way of looking at it is that we haven't lost ground either."
With debts said to total more than £20m, Hull were facing a bleak future at the start of the season. The ending of their Premier League adventure had led to the departure of many big-name players, while Pearson's switch from Leicester to the KC Stadium in the summer seemed like a sideways move at best.
Three wins in their first 16 Championship matches hardly seemed like a promotion push, but Hull's fortunes picked up at the same time as their financial future was assured by Assem Allam's takeover in partnership with his son, Ehab. The Egyptian-born entrepreneur has lived and worked in East Yorkshire, where he has built a highly successful business supplying marine generators, ever since he came to Britain to study at the University of Hull more than 40 years ago.
The Allams took on Hull's debts and financed a major push in last month's transfer window. Among Pearson's recruits were two proven goalscorers in Leicester's Matt Fryatt and Peterborough's Aaron McLean, as well as three promising youngsters from Manchester United, James Chester, Cameron Stewart and Corry Evans, the latter on loan.
Pearson has played the temporary market shrewdly. His squad has recently included five players on loan from other clubs, while seven Hull players are currently plying their trade elsewhere. The manager has also moved smartly to sign up free agents, having recruited Robert Koren (released by West Bromwich Albion), James Harper (Sheffield United), Liam Rosenior (Reading) and Tijani Belaid (Slavia Prague). The squad has changed so much that Andy Dawson, a stalwart for the last eight years, was the only player in Saturday's starting line-up who started in Hull's last Premier League match last May.
Pearson, 47, started out in management with Carlisle 12 seasons ago and had several posts as coach, assistant manager and caretaker manager before being appointed by Southampton in February 2008. His contract was not renewed at the end of the season, despite the fact that he had steered the club away from relegation to League One.
Southampton's loss was Leicester's gain. Pearson enjoyed instant success, leading the Foxes to the League One title in his first season and the Championship play-offs in his second. Hull must have found it hard to believe their good fortune in persuading him to join them. Promotion is still only an outside bet, particularly as Hull still have to travel to Queen's Park Rangers, Nottingham Forest and Swansea, but the club's future appears to be in good hands.