HULL were unable to pull off another great escape as they were relegated to the Sky Bet Championship following a 0-0 draw against 10-man Manchester United.
Exactly six years ago, the KC Stadium was bouncing with joy. Phil Brown grabbed the microphone and yelled “we are staying up.”
But on Sunday the atmosphere was much flatter. Tears ran down the faces of the Hull fans, who just 12 months ago were cheering their team in the FA Cup final.
Steve Bruce had not won against his old employers during his 17-year management career and he could not end that hoodoo on Sunday even though United - who finish the season in fourth - were way below par.
Hull had two goals ruled out for offside and United goalkeeper Victor Valdes pulled off outstanding saves to deny Ahmed Elmohamady and Nikica Jelavic.
But Hull could not find a way through, even after they played the final 13 minutes with an extra man following Marouane Fellaini’s dangerous stamp on Paul McShane.
Newcastle’s 2-0 win against West Ham confirmed Hull’s two-year stay in the Barclays Premier League was over.
The Tigers looked to have done enough to stay in the division when they earned successive wins against Crystal Palace and Liverpool last month, but a winless run of four matches has cost Steve Bruce’s team dearly and they will join QPR and Burnley in the second tier next season.
In his programme notes, Bruce urged Hull fans to “believe” they could pull off an unlikely escape.
“Can there be one last twist?” he asked. The answer looked to be “yes” in the opening stages.
A club official geed up the home fans on the microphone and that positivity spread to the Hull players, who came flying out of the blocks.
The Tigers launched attack after attack on the United goal. Jelavic tested stand-in goalkeeper Valdes from close range in the second minute.
Wayne Rooney clipped the bar, but otherwise United were on the back foot.
The visitors scrambled the ball clear after Valdes came rushing off his line and soon after Michael Dawson powered a header wide.
United’s defence was creaking as Hull lobbed ball after ball into the box.
Twice in the space of three minutes, the home fans were on their feet applauding, but on both occasions they sat down again quickly thanks to the linesman’s flag.
First McShane flicked David Meyler’s goal-bound shot in after Valdes had dropped the ball, but he was in an offside position.
And shortly after Valdes had saved brilliantly from Elmohamady, Dame N’Doye tapped in Stephen Quinn’s shot but again the linesman flagged.
Angel di Maria, who had earlier collided with Elmohamady, could not continue. He was replaced by Adnan Januzaj in the 23rd minute.
A scrappy and tense 20-minute period followed where neither team threatened a goal until United ventured forward on a rare attack in first-half injury-time.
Steve Harper rushed off his line to collect the ball just before Ander Herrera could meet Ashley Young’s teasing cross.
The tempo increased immediately after the break. Dawson performed a vital block to deny Herrera. Hull flew straight up the other end and Meyler flashed a volley high and wide.
News of Newcastle’s goal filtered through and the atmosphere became very flat.
United threw on Fellaini and to begin with he made a positive impact, forcing an attack down the left. Herrera then drove inches wide from the other wing.
Hull would not give up without a fight, though. Daley Blind cleared off the line and N’Doye volleyed just wide.
There was a brief moment of hysteria when rumours of an equaliser for West Ham started spreading around the ground, but the rumours proved unfounded.
Bruce went for it, bringing Abel Hernandez and Sone Aluko on with 20 minutes to go.
But it looked like nothing would work for Hull. Valdes saved low down to his left to deny Jelavic in the box.
The Tigers received a glimmer of hope when Fellaini, just 18 minutes after his introduction from the bench, slid in on McShane, planting his studs into the defender’s left thigh.
Lee Probert had no option but to send the midfielder off. Hernandez fluffed a chance to score in the box, but it did not matter. Newcastle’s second sealed Hull’s relegation.