Anxiously watched by two managers who would much sooner see their resources concentrated on trying to avoid being relegated in their respective divisions, these sides naturally came up with the result neither wanted.
Mark Viduka's goal 17 minutes from the end looked to be enough to allow Gareth Southgate to turn his thoughts back to keeping his Middlesbrough team in the Premiership, and might not have seemed too harsh an outcome in the mind of Phil Brown. His promotion from caretaker to contracted manager at the KC Stadium last week was a vote of confidence in his plans to maintain Hull's place in the Championship rather than to achieve any fleeting glory in this competition.
However, that was not the way his players were seeing it. Six minutes after Viduka's moment, the Hull substitute Nicky Forster popped up in a crowded penalty area to head an equaliser. The Hull goal then survived Boro's attempts to repair the damage and this tie will therefore be replayed on Tuesday week.
"We had enough chances to have been comfortable by half-time but we did not take them," Southgate said. "And in cup football there is always the danger that if you give the opposition a couple of chances they will take one."
Brown, who has supervised a run of one defeat in five to boost his side's survival chances, said his players were disappointed. "We felt that we did not play as well as we could have, although we had to make four changes and lost some fluency as a result." One of the changes was forced by his concerns over Nick Barmby, who had been "desperate" to play against his former club after scoring twice against Sheffield Wednesday on New Year's Day but was not risked after complaining of stiffness on Friday morning.
Yet Hull were nothing if not determined, particularly in their enthusiastic defending, showing themselves prepared to throw bodies in the way as the visitors pressed for a breakthrough. Stewart Downing and Julio Arca both missed narrowly from free-kicks but luck favoured the home side and Yakubu Aiyegbeni twice thought he was about to celebrate only to have the ball cleared off the line, each time by Hull's outstanding centre-back Danny Coles.
Indeed, Hull finished the first half in attacking mode with chances for all their front three. Jon Parkin forced a save from Brad Jones, standing in for an injured Mark Schwarzer, while Stephen McPhee sent a low shot just wide and, after Stuart Elliott's header had won a corner, he felt he had strong claims for a penalty when another effort seemed to hit Arca's hand.
When Middlesbrough went ahead, as Viduka emerged from an otherwise subdued afternoon to fire home hard and low from the 18-yard line, it seemed Hull were on their way out, but that assumption did not take account of their strong spirit.
Parkin and Darryl Duffy had already exposed Middlesbrough's uncertainty against crosses, and when Ryan France used a free-kick on the right to deliver a swinging cross towards Jones's near post Forster directed home an equalising header. "Although [League] survival is most definitely our priority," Brown said, "our objective was to be in the hat for the fourth-round draw and we achieved that, as well as keeping up our run."Reuse content