AS Steve Bruce dashed into the north London night on Saturday, he did so with a spring in his step.
Considering his Hull City side had, just half an hour or so earlier, been pegged back by a stoppage-time equaliser from Arsenal this may have surprised a few of the onlookers who had to do a double take to make sure it really was the former Manchester United defender heading towards the nearby Underground station.
Bruce, though, had good reason to be in jovial mood as he made his way by tube to Euston and then on to Manchester to join Sam Allardyce’s 60th birthday celebrations.
The Tigers may well have been denied what would have been a sweet victory over the side that broke their hearts in last May’s FA Cup final.
But, in going so close to claiming what would have been only the club’s fourth win over the Gunners and the second in almost a century, Hull once again proved their credentials as a solid Premier League outfit.
Arsenal, as is their wont on home soil, dominated possession to such an extent that they made almost three times as many passes as the Yorkshire side.
Hull, however, resolutely stood tall and showed not just grit and guts but also plenty of guile on the break to claim what was a deserved point.
“I thought we played very well,” said captain Curtis Davies about a contest that saw goals from Mohamed Diame and Abel Hernandez cancelled out by an early opener from Alexis Sanchez and a 91st-minute strike by Danny Welbeck.
“Arsenal are a team who can punish you, but because we were set up so solid, they couldn’t get their shots off. Unless they wanted to do so from 35 yards.
“We were solid and it helped us that we were ahead as it gave us something to defend.
“It wasn’t just defending, though, and along with the two goals, I think if we had been a bit cuter then I think we could have exploited it a bit more.”
Asked if Welbeck’s late equaliser had brought back bad memories of the Cup final and how Arsenal fought back from 2-0 down to deny Hull their first piece of major silverware, Davies replied: “I wouldn’t say so, no.
“We can recover from this because it is just one game and we have a chance to win another one next week.
“But when it is the Cup final, when you lose, you lose.
“Plus, before (Saturday’s) game we would have snatched someone’s hand off if they had offered us a point.
“It was tough to concede, though, because we had been in front so long and shown such resilience.
“That made it tough to take in the end.”
Reminders of May 17 were everywhere for Hull’s first visit to the Emirates since that Wembley meeting, whether it be the countless mentions in the matchday programme or the new addition to the list of honours that can be found painted on the front wall of the upper tier.
If this was designed to make sure Arsene Wenger’s side did not repeat their laboured start at Wembley then it did the trick as the hosts took the game to Hull from the off.
Jack Wilshere headed wide, Steve Harper had to make a double save to deny both Welbeck and Sanchez, and then Hull’s veteran goalkeeper was forced to go one better to tip over a Santi Cazorla effort at full stretch.
All this came in the opening exchanges so there was little surprise when Arsenal finally did go ahead on 13 minutes.
Outrageous skill by Sanchez created the opening as Davies was left flat-footed and the £35m summer signing was the one to capitalise with a drilled shot across Harper.
This could have been the prelude to a Gunners walkover but Hull refused to bow and the visitors were level within five minutes.
Diame, with a barnstorming run that included referee Roger East missing a blatant tug on Mathieu Flamini, netted the equaliser with a sublime dinked finish over Wojcjech Szczesny.
Arsenal continued to dominate after that but it was Hull, just 32 seconds into the second half, who had the game’s next clear-cut opening when Abel Hernandez headed in Tom Huddlestone’s cross.
Considering the Uruguayan, only playing because Nikica Jelavic injured his knee in the warm-up, had barely managed a touch by that stage, the quality of his finish really was of the highest order.
After that, Arsenal continued to pass the ball well but there seemed no way past Hull’s defensive wall. That was, though, until 24 seconds into stoppage time, when the quick feet of Sanchez created a chance for Welbeck and he did the rest.
There was still time for Eldin Jakupovic, on for Harper who had suffered a torn bicep three minutes before the break, to deny Kieran Gibbs with a smart save to ensure Bruce was able to head for the Piccadilly Line in fine heart and looking forward to toasting Allardyce’s big day back in the North West.
On Hull’s two goalscorers, captain Davies added: “Diame is quality.
“He has composure. I was expecting a hustle and bustle midfielder, who got about quickly. I thought the goals would come but four in five games is ridiculous.
“Arsenal were meant to get him on two or three occasions. I think it was something about the medical. I don’t know too much else about it but I’m glad he is with us.
“Same goes for Abel. Jela felt his knee in the warm-up. Abel came in and even though he is a central striker, he is a different striker to Jelavic.
“Jelavic is more of a target man, more of a hustle and bustle player. Abel is more someone who can play alongside that sort of player.
“So, it was difficult for him to adapt. But Abel took his goal well, it was a good finish.”