Neither camp would willingly concede that this was a match they had to win, viewing it rather as one they dare not lose. It may seem a subtle distinction but, in a relegation battle as close as this season's, surrendering three points to a direct rival becomes increasingly dangerous. In the event, after a contest played at an excitingly high tempo, both sides fulfilled the requirement of remaining unbeaten, although Hull – at home and twice in front – will feel they missed an opportunity.
Phil Brown's team ended a run of six straight defeats but have won only one game in 15 in the Premier League, and it is hard to escape the feeling that their descent may be difficult to reverse.
Moreover, there are already worries over the fitness of their £5 million record signing, Jimmy Bullard. The 30-year-old, who played for 37 minutes on his debut at West Ham in midweek, has been troubled by a new injury to his rebuilt right knee and was withdrawn after missing training on Friday.
Tony Mowbray, the West Brom-wich Albion manager, suggested that Hull would rue the lost points more than his side. But the table still shows Albion bottom and Hull six points better off, and Brown was upbeat afterwards. "In terms of application we were nothing short of magnificent," he said.
Mowbray, after writing off his team's first-half showing as a "non-event", believed Albion finished well enough to have won. The midweek humbling at the hands of Manchester United had, he said, been "put behind us very quickly".
Yet Hull had the better of things in the first half and should have gone ahead on the half-hour when Richard Garcia headed Kevin Kilbane's cross over the bar from seven yards.
Hull deservedly edged ahead in the 44th minute. Ian Ashbee's volleyed pass over the top found the Albion back four exposed and Bernard Mendy, showing Paul Robinson a clean pair of heels, ran through. He still had work to do but kept his cool, taking the ball around Scott Carson before rolling it home.
Pushing hard at the start of the second half, Hull promised a second goal. And yet, after 52 minutes of showing little, the visitors were back on terms when Hull failed to execute some routine defending. Their right-back Ricketts, under pressure in the corner, gave the ball away with an over-ambitious clearance. James Morrison rolled the ball in for Jay Simpson to whip a first-time shot beyond the reach of Matt Duke.
Now Hull's resolve was tested, but they responded admirably. Mendy's pace was again key. Dean Marney found the Frenchman, who delivered a superb cross for Craig Fagan to beat Carson with a fine running header.
For a second time, however, Hull could not hold their lead. Indeed they kept it for only three minutes. Duke made a good stop from Marc-Antoine Fortune, but as the ball spun away Kamil Zayatte lunged at Robert Koren, clearly bringing him down.
Chris Brunt scored from the spot and Albion ended a run of eight consecutive away defeats.
Referee: Peter Walton
Man of the match: Mendy
Match rating: 7/10Reuse content