A HISTORIC week that had seen £14m splashed by Hull City in the transfer market ended with a disappointing defeat at Norwich City.
The Tigers, with record buy Nikica Jelavic making his debut, had looked like claiming a point despite being far from at their best,
However, Ryan Bennett netted a dramatic winner on 87 minutes to ensure the visitors left Norfolk empty-handed.
On the balance of play and chances created, Hull could have few complaints. And to make matters worse, Tom Huddlestone was sent off in the 90th minute for a second yellow card.
All in all, therefore, an afternoon to forget for the Tigers, who will need to improve markedly when next in Premier League action at Crystal Palace on January 28.
There had been a clear sense of anticipation among the travelling fans ahead of kick-off following the £14m double capture of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long.
The latter didn’t travel due to an ankle injury sustained on his final appearance for West Bromwich Albion but Jelavic was in the starting line-up and he almost enjoyed the dream, start.
Just 110 seconds had been played when an incisive pass from Liam Rosenior released Robert Koren down the left.
He got to the by-line before looking up and picking out jelavic, who fired a shot goalwards that clipped the outside of John Ruddy’s post.
Rosenior also then went close as the Tigers continued in a similar vein, the full-back volleying wide after being picked out by Ahmed Elmohamady.
An injury to James Chester then disrupted the visitors, who switched to 4-4-2 after starting the game with wing-backs. The move clearly suited Norwich, as the hosts began to ask more and more questions of the Hull defence.
First, Ricky van Wolfswinkel shot wide after latching on to a Robert Snodgrass knock-down. Sebastian Bassong then headed wide from a Snodgrass cross before van Wolfswinkel did the same from another impressive delivery by the former Leeds United man.
Steve Bruce had seen enough and switched back to 3-5-2, Norwich still finished the first half strongly, however, as Snodgrass brought a flying save from Allan MCGregor and Gary Hooper wasted an inviting opportunity.
The second half started in a similar vein with the home side dominating possession. However, apart from a Snodgrass volley that Curtis Davies threw himself in front of, Allan McGregor’s goal rarely came under threat in those opening exchanges.
As the game moved into the final quarter, the quality on show noticeably dipped. Van Wolfswinkel did have one shot charged down by Curtis Davies while Liam Rosenior had to be alert to avert the danger when Hooper threatened to capitalise on a swift break.
THat appeared to be that, but there was one final twist as Bennett headed in - off, it seemed, the back of a Hull head - with just three minutes remaining.
The Tigers never looked like getting back into the game and their afternoon ended on a fitting low when Huddlestone was red carded following a heavy challenge on Leroy Fer.
It means the midfielder will miss the FA Cup fourth round tie with Southend United, a game he would have sat out anyway due to Bruce wanting to rotate his squad in the knockout competitions.
Hull boss Steve Bruce was left ruing the early miss from new-boy Jelavic, but felt his side did not do enough to leave with three points.
He said: “We had a big chance in the first couple of minutes when Jelavic hit the post and Liam Rosenior had a really big chance, but overall in the second half we were a touch disappointed with how we handled the ball.
“He [Jelavic] has done everything right. His connection with it was right, he struck it really well and I was expecting it to nestle in the back of the net. It has hit the post and missed by two inches. What a start that would have been for the lad.
“When you play like that away form home, to come away with a point would have been terrific for us, another point on the board, but it wasn’t to be.”