Hull City 2 Cardiff City 2: Fearful Faye’s cries of despair turn to tears of joy on Hull’s rollercoaster ride

IF any of the 23,812 fans packed into the KC Stadium for the culmination of a truly extraordinary Championship season watch football for even the next 50 years, chances are they will never again come close to witnessing another finale like the one that ended with Hull City being promoted back to the Premier League.

Hull City's Nick Proschwitz celebrates scoring the opening goal of the game.Picture by Gerard Binks

One red card, a pitch invasion and two penalties in the space of four crazy minutes of stoppage time fail to tell even a fraction of the story as Tigers fans were put through the full gamut of emotions.

First came the joy of not only Cardiff defender Andrew Taylor being sent off with Hull leading 2-1 but then the home side being awarded a 93rd-minute penalty.

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Next came a sense of disappointment as Nick Proschwitz saw the resulting spot-kick saved after a mini pitch-invasion had been cleared. It was a blow but, at that stage, not overly serious with Hull, thanks to being ahead against the champions, still firmly on course for the top flight.

Sixty one seconds later, however, a sense of dread and disbelief filled three sides of Hull’s state-of-the-art sporting mecca as referee Kevin Stroud pointed to the penalty spot at the other end and Nicky Maynard converted to blow a huge hole in Hull’s promotion bid.

Suddenly, a Watford winner in their game against Leeds United – which still had 10 minutes remaining due to a serious first-half injury suffered by Hornets goalkeeper Jonathan Bond – would have meant Steve Bruce’s men being pipped in the cruellest of fashions.

As several thousand Tigers fans poured onto the pitch for a second time when Stroud blew the final whistle, an air of anxiety quickly descended on the KC as everyone waited for news from Vicarage Road.

In the tunnel, some players huddled round television monitors showing the Watford game while others, such as George Boyd, headed for the dressing room, unable to watch. Abdoulaye Faye, who had unwittingly given away the penalty that allowed Cardiff to level at the finish, simply found a quiet corner in the bowels of the KC and cried his eyes out.

Had Ross McCormack not then netted a dramatic winner for Leeds as the clock ticked on towards 3pm, the Senegalese defender would probably still be there now.

As it was, a relieved Faye was able to join in as the biggest party the East Riding had seen in many a long year got under way shortly afterwards when confirmation came through that Watford had lost.

Hull, despite claiming just two points from their final four games, were back in the Premier League and no-one was happier than Faye, who had been harshly adjudged by referee Stroud to have handled the ball during that frantic finale.

“I felt sick inside when the game finished,” said the 35-year-old defender, who made it a notable double on Saturday after having won promotion via the play-offs with West Ham United last season.

“I was crying in the dressing room because it felt as though it was my fault. We had to wait for Watford against Leeds to finish and that was horrible.

“But then Leeds won and that is when everything went crazy. Everyone was just so happy to be promoted. It was the best day in all my life.”

No doubt Hull fans will concur with Faye’s view. The day the Tigers clinched a second promotion to the Premier League really is one they will never forget.

It began amid an air of unease that Hull might have blown their chance. The defeat to Barnsley a week earlier had been so comprehensive that there seemed no way back and the play-offs appeared to beckon.

Credit, therefore, has to go to Bruce, who not only ditched the 3-5-2 formation that had looked so staid in recent weeks but also moved left wing-back Robbie Brady forward to play just behind frontman Jay Simpson.

In such an important game, it was a big call. As was starting Paul McShane in Brady’s place at left-back, a position the Republic of Ireland international had never played previously.

On both counts, however, the Tigers’ manager got it right with both players putting in sterling displays.

Brady went the closest to breaking the deadlock in a cagey first half of few clear-cut chances with a fierce shot that David Marshall did well to beat away, while at the other end Cardiff duo Jordon Mutch and Craig Conway both had efforts that were deflected just wide.

After the interval, the contest opened up and it was the visitors who took the lead when a sublime pass from Kim Bo-Kyung released Fraizer Campbell and the one-time Tigers loanee made no mistake with an equally impressive finish.

With Watford having equalised against Leeds 200 miles away, Hull were in danger of falling at the last. That was, however, until two goals in four minutes around the hour mark transformed the game.

First, Nick Proschwitz tapped in Stephen Quinn’s cross from close range and then McShane did the same from Brady’s corner.

As the minutes ticked away, Hull’s promotion seemed assured. Taylor being shown a red card for a foul on Ahmed Elmohamady as the game moved into stoppage time strengthened that belief.

Even Proschwitz’s miss from the penalty spot after Ben Nugent had fouled David Meyler in the 93rd minute did not seem to matter until Cardiff raced up the other end and Faye was adjudged to have handled in his own penalty area.

Maynard duly did the rest to set up the most agonising 12 minutes of this or any other season for Tigers fans, who nevertheless come 3pm were able to toast a Yorkshire favour having returned to the Premier League after a three-year absence.

Hull City: Stockdale; Rosenior, Chester, Faye, McShane; Elmohamady, Meyler, Quinn, Boyd, Brady (Fathi 87), Simpson (Proschwitz 44). Unused substitutes: Fryatt, Bruce, Evans, Hobbs, Jakupovoic.

Cardiff City: Marshall; McNaughton, Nugent, Turner, Taylor; Noone (Maynard 85), Mutch, Gunnarsson, Conway; Bo-Kyung (Gestede 64), Velikonja (Campbell 46). Unused substitutes: Lewis, Whittingham, Smith, Lappin.

Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).