THIS rare night of frustration on home soil saw leaders Hull City draw a blank in the East Riding.
Only Derby County of the previous 18 visitors to the KC Stadium this season, a roster that includes surprise Premier League leaders Leicester City and Swansea City, had prevented Steve Bruce’s men from scoring on their own patch.
Brighton & Hove Albion matched that feat of the Rams with considerable ease, Chris Hughton’s men being rarely troubled on their second visit to the KC Stadium in a little over a month.
That first trip resulted in an FA Cup third-round exit thanks to a Robert Snodgrass penalty, but the Seagulls were full value for their point last night.
Hull, so laborious in possession, took 85 minutes to genuinely trouble David Stockdale in the visitors’ goal.
And even when Sam Clucas thundered a terrific shot goalwards, the one-time Hull goalkeeper pushed the ball on to a post to ensure Hull would fire a blank at home for the first time since losing 2-0 to Derby in late November.
It meant Hull were only able to stretch their lead at the top of the Championship to two points.
With trips to Ipswich Town and Birmingham City sandwiching a home clash against Sheffield Wednesday in their next three games, such a slender advantage is bound to come under pressure.
Not that Bruce’s side could complain last night at being held. Far too many in amber and black had an off night against a Brighton side that had clearly arrived in Yorkshire with the express intention of keeping things tight.
With Steve Sidwell handed his first start since joining on loan from Stoke City last month, the Seagulls packed midfield in an attempt to frustrate the hosts.
The ploy worked admirably, the free-flowing football that has characterised Hull this term being conspicuously absent.
Not only were a ponderous Hull unable to make any headway against the mass of blue and white shirts, but Albion also went the closest to breaking the deadlock in a low-key first half.
A swift counter attack involving Tomer Hemed and Sidwell caught the Tigers unawares, and only a reflex save from Allan McGregor prevented the visitors going ahead through a snapshot from former Sheffield United winger Jamie Murphy.
From the resulting corner, Brighton also went close when Lewis Dunk headed over.
At the other end, Stockdale, part of the Hull side that won promotion under Bruce in 2013, was rarely called into action during that first half.
The Leeds-born goalkeeper had one nervous moment, a Tom Huddlestone shot from distance that went just a yard or so wide of the post.
Otherwise, though, Stockdale was well protected by an Albion side that got men behind the ball at every opportunity.
It did not help the Hull cause that so many of their key players were way below par, something which continued after the interval.
Hull’s lacklustre efforts on a frustrating night for the 17,321 crowd were perhaps best summed up just after the hour when Snodgrass was bundled to the ground by Mohamed Diame as the two team-mates got in an almighty mess on the edge of the area.
In and among such unimpressive fair, Jake Livermore did try to get the Tigers going by upping the tempo and his pass to Abel Hernandez created an opening that the Uruguayan wasted by blazing high and wide.
Another fine pass from Livermore then saw play spread to Andrew Robertson on the left but, again, the chance went begging when his first-time cross struck the nearest defender.
Hernandez finally tested Stockdale with an ambitious overhead kick from 15 yards, though if the effort had gone in then serious questions would have been asked of the goalkeeper.
Dunk then epitomised the Brighton stance of ‘thou shalt not pass’ by executing two perfectly-timed tackles in quick succession to deny Clucas and Hernandez a sight of goal.
As if that was not impressive enough, Dunk came close to conjuring a winner at the other end moments later.
Moving forward at pace with many home players upfield, Dunk was able to cover the best part of 50 yards before curling a shot just wide of a post with McGregor rooted to the spot.
Moments later, Chuba Akpom headed over from a corner before Stockdale produced the night’s defining moment with a stunning one-handed save to deny Clucas and push the ball on to the post.
It meant Brighton had a tenth draw on the road this season and the KC Stadium its first goalless stalemate since the visit of Manchester United in the final game of the Premier League last season.
Hull City: McGregor; Odubajo, Dawson, Davies, Robertson; Snodgrass (Akpom 72), Huddlestone (Hayden 61), Livermore, Clucas; Diame (Elmohamady 82), Hernandez. Unused substitutes: Jakupovic, Meyler, Maguire, Diomande.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Stockdale; Bruno, Goldson, Dunk, Calderon; Knockaert (Skalak 85), Kayal (Crofts 71), Stephens, Sidwell, Murphy; Hemed (Baldock 71). Unused substitutes: Maenpaa, Baldock, Rosenior, Zamora, Lualua.
Referee: A Madley (West Yorkshire).
Results and tables: Page 22.