Didier Drogba's double strike gave new Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti a winning start to his Barclays Premier League career.
The Ivory Coast international grabbed the winner in added time to shatter battling Hull's hopes of a point.
Chelsea had trailed to a 27th-minute goal from Hull's debut boy Stephen Hunt, but Drogba levelled the scores in the 37th minute with a dipping 25-yard free-kick and then grabbed the winner late in the game to secure maximum reward for the home side.
But prior to Drogba's face-saving strike there were worrying echoes of the Luiz Felipe Scolari era.
Chelsea resorted to far too much intricate approach play on the edge of Hull's penalty area and when that failed they opted to punt long balls into the danger zone from either flank.
They were tactics reminiscent of Scolari's ill-fated reign and, just as Chelsea did so often under their former coach, they saved themselves with a late winner.
The home side should have taken the lead as early as the second minute but Drogba fired wide from six yards after Michael Essien's superb cross fell directly at the feet of the unmarked striker.
Hull gave Chelsea a warning in the ninth minute when captain George Boateng shot just wide of Petr Cech's right-hand upright from 20 yards.
Four minutes later a cross from Hunt was headed over by Dean Marney. The Hull midfielder was allowed to ghost into the penalty unmarked and should have done better with his finish.
Cech then had to be alert to save another shot from Boateng as the Tigers began to find some success in the attacking third.
Hull had weathered the early Chelsea storm and had been far from second best.
Chelsea looked impressive going forward in their diamond formation but the same could not be said for the defensive element of the system.
The home side's failure to clear a free-kick in the 27th minute cost them dearly.
Chelsea had been upset at the free-kick awarded by Alan Riley when the official insisted that Jose Bosingwa had tugged the shirt of Hunt.
It got worse for the Blues when Andy Dawson sent the free-kick towards the Chelsea penalty area.
It was only half-cleared to Boateng on the edge of the area and his shot cannoned off both Ashley Cole and Mikel before falling to Hunt to apply an easy finish into an unguarded net.
That made it a terrific start to his Hull career for Hunt who was booed all afternoon by the Chelsea fans.
They still have not forgiven the former Reading player for the challenge in an October 2006 match which left Cech with a fractured skull. Cech is still required to wear protective head gear.
The Blues were level in the 37th minute thanks to a superb free-kick strike by Drogba.
Seyi Olofinjana was penalised by Wiley for holding off Mikel 25 yards out and Drogba punished them severely when he sent a dipping shot over the defensive wall and into the right corner.
Boaz Myhill then had to dive low to his left to prevent Michael Essien from giving Chelsea the lead five minutes before the interval.
Ancelotti's side should have gone in front within seconds of the re-start.
Drogba set up strike partner Nicolas Anelka perfectly but the France international failed to beat Myhill from six yards.
In the 56th minute Myhill twice denied Drogba with stunning saves as the Ivory Coast international looked for his second goal of the game.
In the 68th minute Hull replaced Hunt with new signing Kamel Ghilas to a chorus of boos from the Chelsea fans and the Blues substituted Malouda, bringing on Deco.
Essien almost gave Chelsea the lead in the 74th minute but his 20-yard volley was narrowly wide of the target.
Bosingwa then brought a fine diving save from Myhill as his effort looked to creep in.
Substitute Salomon Kalou, on for Anelka, then headed over from Deco's cross as Chelsea chased a winner.
But Drogba scored a vital winner two minutes into added time when he somehow chipped the ball over Myhill and into the far corner from an acute angle.