Joel Asoro scored his maiden Sunderland goal on his first Championship start as they won a tense game between two sides relegated from last season’s Premier League.
Asoro’s 20th-minute strike means goal difference is all that is keeping Hull above the bottom three and their hosts in it.
Hull pushed hard for a second-half equaliser but could not match the moment of quality the Black Cats’ youthful attacking players served up in the early stages. When they did test the home goalkeeper, Robbin Ruiter produced a point-blank save from David Meyler in added time.
Tigers boss Nigel Adkins was concerned afterwards that his Tigers gave the hosts the early initiative.
“We’ve not got the three points we needed and a team close to us in the division has,” he said. “I was concerned about how poor we were in the first 35 minutes.
“The warm-up was good, the mood in the dressing room was spot on and we go out there focused and for me we didn’t get anywhere near in the duels you need to win and be competitive in in a game of football.
“In the second half we were better and got the ball into the area but we couldn’t find the goal we needed and it’s a bad loss.”
Sunderland started with an XI that had four academy graduates but only five league goals between them but the energy of their teenage strikers gave them a much-needed lift against a Hull side who were also low on form and confidence at kick-off.
The Black Cats had spent all week trying to sign an on-loan striker - they agreed a deal with Derby for Chris Martin on Friday afternoon, but face fierce competition for the experienced Championship goalscorer.
After drawing a blank they decided instead to give Sweden Under-21 international Asoro his full Championship debut, and it took just 20 minutes to pay off.
The warm-up was good, the mood in the dressing room was spot on and we go out there focused and for me we didn’t get anywhere near in the duels you need to win and be competitive in in a game of football.Nigel Adkins
Lee Cattermole set a tenacious tone in midfield and when he won the ball, George Honeyman played an excellent pass. Asoro had time to think about his finish and drilled it across Allan McGregor to give his side the lead.
It was no more than Sunderland deserved for an excellent start which saw Honeyman, in the hole, linking well with fellow academy products Asoro and Josh Maja.
Hull came more into the game during the final 15 minutes of the first half without translating it into work for Ruiter.
Meyler shot straight at the Dutchman and Jon Toral hit his shot over when Seb Larsson pulled a corner back to him.
The Black Cats were forced to absorb a lot of second-half pressure, but looked more likely to score from their counter-attacks.
Fraizer Campbell, like Meyler and Larsson a former Stadium of Light player, missed a glorious chance to equalise midway through the second half, putting Evandro’s left-wing cross well wide under pressure with the goal gaping.
The tension might have been lifted in a controversial incident with 12 minutes remaining.
Asoro anticipated a penalty-area tackle from Michael Dawson, booked four minutes earlier for fouling the striker just outside the 18-yard box. Dawson tried to pull out of the challenge and despite the penalty appeals from the home crowd, referee Keith Stroud decided he had managed to do so, booking Asoro for a dive.
Ruiter’s save from Meyler prevented Hull from levelling and they have now taken nine points from a possible 45.
Sunderland: Ruiter, Browning, O’Shea, Clarke-Salter, Jones (Matthews 34), Cattermole, Robson, Oviedo, Honeyman, Maja (Gooch 87), Asoro. Subs Not Used: Steele, McManaman, Galloway, McGeady, Love.
Hull City: McGregor, Tomori, Dawson, Hector, Aina, Meyler, Larsson, Toral (Irvine 69), Evandro (Dicko 79), Bowen, Campbell (Keane 76). Subs Not Used: Mazuch, Marshall, Henriksen, Clark.
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).