FOR A club that had looked less and less like leaving any kind of lasting imprint on this season’s Premier League with each passing week, Hull City needed this.
Okay, a stirring performance by Mike Phelan’s men did not, in the end, earn the three points required of it.
With the Tigers facing successive visits to the capital this week to take on Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United on the back of five straight defeats away from home that have yielded just two goals, there remains a very real danger the Yorkshire club could soon be cut adrift in the bottom three.
But, for 90 glorious minutes, this was a reminder as to what Hull can offer the top flight with a high-tempo contest that had almost everything.
Goals, drama, controversy and enough talking points to keep fans busy in the pubs and clubs well into the night – those who made up the KCOM Stadium’s lowest top-flight crowd were served up an early Christmas cracker.
Even the warm-up had a touch of the unexpected for the 17,403 in attendance, as a member of the match sponsors’ party made his feelings known on Hull’s owners by waving a flag bearing the message ‘Allams out’ at supporters from the centre circle.
The flag was confiscated by a member of staff and the dissenter subsequently ejected. He missed a belter of a match, one that will live long in the memory and not just because of the first-half penalty won and converted by Robert Snodgrass that Palace manager Alan Pardew felt should have “embarrassed” the Scot.
Pardew, in his 300th game as a Premier League manager, was justified in his criticism. The 27th-minute episode was not one that reflected well on either Hull or their top scorer.
But the rest of the game most certainly did, as Snodgrass and his team-mates ensured Hull netted three times in the top flight for the first time since February, 2014.
That this trio of goals did not yield as many points was down to some questionable defending and Wilfried Zaha. The Palace man scored one, created one and won the penalty that cancelled out Snodgrass’s own opener to earn Pardew a point from his 300th game as a Premier League manager.
Phelan is a long way short of that tally. Thanks to an underwhelming summer of recruitment by the Tigers, he is also having to work with a squad that is not fit for purpose in the Premier League.
But, as the Eagles clash underlined in such glorious fashion, what Hull perhaps lack in numbers they are more than capable of making up for in heart, desire and – when the shackles are taken off – attacking quality.
“I am pleased, annoyed and disappointed – all those emotions,” said the Tigers’ head coach. “Three goals at home and not winning a game of football, there has to be a negative in that.
“But I thought our performance showed there is a lot of graft in that group and a lot of determination to stay at this level.
“We started the season reasonably well and then faded a bit. Now, I think we realise what we have to do in order to stay at this level.”
Considering Pardew’s history in Hull – he once served a seven-game ban as Newcastle manager after aiming a headbutt at David Meyler – perhaps high drama was inevitable on his first return since that infamous afternoon.
Likewise Fraizer Campbell, who not content with starring at the KC Stadium as a loanee during Hull’s promotion in 2008 returned five years later on the final day of the season to net an equaliser that came so close to denying his former club a return to the top flight.
This time, his intervention – an 89th-minute equaliser, when the Huddersfield-born substitute headed in Zaha’s floated cross – did deny Hull the prize they craved to ensure honours ended even between two sides who had given everything.
Snodgrass had opened the scoring from the spot after taking a tumble as Scott Dann slid in. Replays confirmed what many in the stadium had suspected, that no contact had been made.
Palace were furious, Pardew remonstrating with Mike Jones as the referee made his way down the tunnel at half-time.
Parity, though, was restored seven minutes after the restart when Zaha was tripped by Snodgrass and Christian Benteke equalised with the resulting penalty.
Zaha, outstanding throughout, then put the visitors ahead with a ferocious shot into the roof of David Marshall’s net as the game moved into the final quarter, but back came the Tigers with two goals in six breathless minutes.
Adama Diomande, following an exquisite turn on the edge of the area that left Dann trailing, became the first recognised striker to score for Hull in the league since Abel Hernandez netted in the 2-0 win at Swansea City on August 13.
More incisive attacking play then saw Jake Livermore exchange passes with Snodgrass before evading a couple of challenges and passing the ball beyond Wayne Hennessey and into the net.
It was the first time the Tigers had scored more than two goals in a top-flight game since beating Cardiff 4-0 back in February, 2014.
Campbell started for the Bluebirds that day in south Wales, but this time he would not end up on the losing side thanks to Zaha’s precision from the right flank and a sweet header that was enough to guide the ball into the corner of Marshall’s net.