The Bulls' late season surge failed to save them from missing the play-offs for the first time in Super League, their efforts on Humberside rendered irrelevant by the Catalan Dragons surprise 24-12 win at St Helens.
"You can never tell when it's out of your hands, but we've not lost out because of what's happened tonight," said the Bradford coach, Steve McNamara. "Earlier in the season we lost a lot of matches we should have won."
A late drop goal and penalty from their captain, Paul Deacon, gave Bradford their fifth win on the trot. The French victory at Knowsley Road, however, gave them the all-important eighth place in the table, as well as guaranteeing that Leeds would win the League Leaders' Shield, which was duly presented to them after their win at Salford.
Hull, a team with even more reason than Bradford to want to forget 2009, showed every indication of signing off in what is almost traditional style – with an upbeat display against opponents with far more to play for.
They took the lead on seven minutes with their first attack on the right flank, Richard Horne and Danny Tickle throwing the long passes that opened the way for Tom Briscoe. The Bulls seemed inhibited by the prospect, once unlikely, of the play-offs but all that changed in the few minutes before half-time, largely thanks to Deacon. First, he delivered the short pass off his hip that sent Michael Worrincy storming through on the angle. Then, he latched onto a defence-slipping combination from Steve Menzies and Glenn Morrison and also tagged on a second conversion.
Deacon put the Bulls further ahead 13 minutes into the second half, with a simple penalty then initiated the attack on the last tackle of the set that saw Chris Nero smuggle the ball to James Donaldson. Hull hit back with a try and a goal from Tickle. Briscoe then gave another glimpse of his rich potential with a brilliant second, with Tickle's conversion tying the scores.
A second fracas in as many minutes saw Morrison, in his last match for the Bulls, sent to the sin-bin. At least Deacon stayed cool, although the overall feeling for Bradford was one of bitter disappointment.
Hull: Tansey; Briscoe, Whiting, Hall, Raynor; Washbrook, R.Horne; Dowes, Houghton, Cordoba, Tickle, Manu, Radford. Substitutes used: G.Horne, King, Moa, Lauaki.
Bradford: Sykes; Sheriffe, Platt, Nero, Tadulala; Morrison, Deacon; Lynch, Godwin, Scruton, Worrincy, Menzies, Langley. Substitutes used: Jeffries, Burgess, Kopczak, Donaldson.
Referee: R.Silverwood (Mirfield)