West Bromwich Albion have five more hurdles to overcome if they are to seal a return to the Premier League but Slaven Bilic will hope they do not make life as difficult as they did here in their quest to get over the line.
Some slapstick defending ensured six goals and chances aplenty in a preposterously open and ill-tempered game, with the home side’s Ahmed Hegazi sent off late on. Hull, fighting for their lives at the other end of the table, were not out of this frenetic occasion until the substitute Grady Diangana completed the scoring 14 minutes from time and after goals by Charlie Austin, Hegazi and Kamil Grosicki.
Middlesbrough’s defeat at home to Queens Park Rangers meant Hull would remain above the relegation zone regardless of the result and goals from Kevin Stewart and Mallik Wilks had hauled them level in a topsy-turvy match. But Diangana stepped off the bench to open up a two-goal lead and secure West Brom’s five-point buffer to third-placed Brentford, who have chalked up five successive victories.
Before kick-off a montage of motivational messages courtesy of supporters from Sacramento to Kings Heath played out on the big screens but it was the craft of a Brazilian by the name of Matheus Pereira who proved to be the catalyst for West Brom with a hat-trick of assists. For the first Austin benefited from a slice of good fortune, with Stewart dangling a leg at Pereira’s arrowed cross and inadvertently deflecting the ball into the path of the striker, who was grateful of the gift on his 31st birthday.
QPR inflicted a second straight defeat on Middlesbrough to keep Neil Warnock’s side in the bottom three, thanks to Jordan Hugill’s 32nd-minute effort.
The forward endured a difficult loan spell at hometown club Middlesbrough last season and came back to haunt them with a superb effort from 30 yards.
It would prove Hugill’s last action of the afternoon after he appeared to injure himself while firing the R’s ahead, but the visitors held on to secure a 1-0 victory which moves them up to 13th and keeps the home side in the relegation zone.
Rhian Brewster and André Ayew kept Swansea in the race for a play-off berth with a 2-1 home win over Sheffield Wednesday.
After a goalless first half, Steve Cooper saw his side take the lead through on-loan Liverpool forward Brewster when he pounced quickest after 52 minutes from Connor Roberts’ cross.
The Swans doubled their advantage 14 minutes later when Ayew fired home from the penalty spot after Roberts had been fouled by Adam Reach.
Atdhe Nuhiu pulled one back for Garry Monk’s team at his old club, but it was too little, too late and the hosts sit eighth and four points behind rivals Cardiff in sixth.
Bilic threw his hands up in the air in exasperation throughout, none more so than when Wilks headed in two-and-a-half minutes after the interval to equalise for the second time after Hegazi had powered home a Pereira corner after 37 minutes. West Brom wasted a flurry of chances towards the end of the first half to put the game out of sight but Grosicki, who arrived from Hull in January, slotted in a third after a delicious through ball by Pereira, who was primed to get on the scoresheet himself but Jordy de Wijs, the Hull captain, did well to deny the winger.
Only the bottom club, Luton, have conceded more than Hull and here it was abundantly clear why, but West Brom were also frail defensively. Sam Johnstone, their goalkeeper, denied Jon Toral with a fingertip save while Wilks’s pace and trickery caused an unconvincing West Brom backline problems. “This cannot happen any more,” said Kyle Bartley, the West Brom captain, as Hull poured forward and the chances kept coming until Diangana’s cool finish calmed the nerves.