Alan Pardew admitted saviour Papiss Cisse should not have played after coming off the bench to snatch a vital draw for the Newcastle boss.
The Magpies were trailing 2-0 to Hull at St James’ Park with just 21 minutes remaining when the Senegal international was introduced as a substitute, his first action since suffering a fractured kneecap in March.
But Cisse overcame his ring-rust to plunder a late double which rescued a point and spared his under-pressure manager a broadside from disgruntled supporters.
Pardew said: “He shouldn’t have played today, really. My medical staff didn’t agree that he should be included today - I think he has trained five days.
“But when you are experienced - myself and [assistant manager] John [Carver] looked at each other on Thursday, I think it was, and your eye tells you sometimes that the player is fresh, he’s bright.
“Of course he’s not ready for 90 minutes, but he knows how to carry the jersey.”
On a day when fans had signalled their intention to stage mass protests calling for Pardew to be sacked, his players responded to turn in an at-times enterprising display, although, until Cisse’s introduction, they lacked the cutting edge to make the pressure tell.
Hull exacerbated their problems when Nikica Jelavic blasted home a superb 48th-minute volley and, when Mohamed Diame made it 2-0 with a rasping long-range drive, the manager’s critics had their chance.
However, Cisse dragged the hosts back into it when he beat goalkeeper Allan McGregor at his near post after 74 minutes and then levelled three minutes from time to placate the home fans, many of whom had declined to join in the earlier jeering.
During his celebrations, the frontman unveiled a tee-shirt bearing the message ‘Always looking forward, Jonas’, a reference to team-mate Jonas Gutierrez’s ongoing battle with testicular cancer.
Pardew admitted Gutierrez’s fight, which became public this week, had helped to unite the squad, and thanked the supporters who had exercised such restraint during a difficult afternoon.
He said: “I have to say thank you to them for that because big sections of our fans more or less took a neutral position today.
“I don’t expect them to have been supporting me or in any way wanting to cheer for me personally, but I think they just took a view of loving their football club and just seeing what happened today, and I think we did enough on the pitch to win a few friends today.
“I think our fans are realistic - they know the top six is beyond us. We can’t compete with those clubs at the moment. But we should be competing for seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, we have proven that we can do that in the past.
“We are well short of it at the moment and I am not going to jump up and down here for a 2-2 draw at home to Hull, but it’s a stepping stone to that area where this club needs to be.”
Opposite number Steve Bruce, who has had to distance himself from reports he is being lined up to replace Pardew, was devastated to have been denied victory at the death.
He said: “When you are two goals up, you should be able to see it through, but we just didn’t do it.
“We gave the ball away and our keeper was guilty of some horrible positioning. Then one of our kids was caught in possession, so we have been punished for our own errors.
“The same thing happened this week when we were twice ahead against West Ham and now, instead of saying we have had a fantastic start to our season, all we can say is that we have made a decent start.”