The Tigers’ 5-2 home win against Birmingham City on Saturday sent them back into the top two and they are now just five points behind Cardiff City.
Bruce, who twice took Birmingham into the Premier League, admitted: “I’d still rather be in Cardiff’s position and it’s a huge game on Tuesday night at Crystal Palace. I wouldn’t have taken the job if I didn’t think we’d be competitive, but it’s only now that I’m thinking that we’ve got a great chance. I really, really think that.
“There’s a determination in us which tells me we’re going to make a real fist of it. Whether or not we’re good enough, who knows?
“It’s only until after this game, with 11 games to go, that I’ve felt we’ve got a great chance.”
His players turned on the style as they bounced back from a 4-1 defeat at Bolton, none more so than full debutant George Boyd.
Signed until the end of the season on a £200,000 emergency loan from Peterborough with a view to a two-year deal when his contract expires in the summer, Boyd struck within the first minute at the KC Stadium.
Bruce paid tribute to club owners the Allams for again backing his judgment.
“As a manager, sometimes you need a hand and when Boyd became available, the owners have dug deep again. The transfer fee is insignificant, but still, you need that hand.
“Can you imagine Sone Aluko and Matty Fryatt (out injured) in this team? All of a sudden we’ve got a bit of attacking talent there and the owners must take the credit.”
On the silky skills of his 27-year-old new signing, Bruce continued: “It baffles me why he hasn’t played in the Premier League, it really, really does.
“Sometimes players just need a chance, but certainly for me George Boyd could play at the highest level without question.
“He’s got all the attributes and he’s a wonderful athlete who can play in a number of positions.
“There’s a huge desire in him, too, so I’m delighted we’ve nicked him out of Peterborough; it’s a fantastic piece of business.”
After a fourth successive home win took Hull two points clear of Watford, who had drawn on Friday, Bruce added: “It would have been better at 5-0, but this division enthralls me because of its fierce competition.
“You can never take anything for granted. You wouldn’t have thought Middlesbrough would have beaten Cardiff and you wouldn’t think Ipswich would have beaten Leicester (both on Saturday). It’s that fierce.
“But we’ve got a chance because we’ve got a really strong group of players who are a talented bunch and who, I also detect, have a steely determination. Who knows where it will take us?
“We’ve got three games before the international break and then it’s eight to play. That’s the tickly part. I wish only for one thing. I wish we could do something with the pitch, it’s far from ideal, but it’s out of our hands.”
Following defeat at Middlesbrough, who are just one point off the play-offs, disappointed Cardiff manager Malky Mackay said: “I felt we probably deserved a point on the basis of that second-half performance, but we shot ourselves in the foot a bit and we gave away two goals which we would normally never concede.”
Leeds United stayed in contention for the play-offs with a 1-0 home win over Millwall ahead of trips to fifth-placed Leicester and fourth-placed Crystal Palace.
“We’ve got to get points from this week,” said manager Neil Warnock ahead of tomorrow’s game at Leicester.
“I don’t like talking about must-win games, but it’s must-win when you’ve got Leicester and Palace away to come. Those two don’t lose many at home and they’ll expect to beat us with the way the table is, but these are dangerous games for them. We’ve got the right players to win if we hit the right vein.”
At the bottom of the Championship, there were defeats for Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town and Barnsley.
The Owls are four points clear of the Championship relegation places after a 1-0 home defeat to Nottingham Forest, but their next three games are against promotion-chasing sides.
They travel to Watford tomorrow night, visit Leicester City on Saturday, before leaders Cardiff visit Hillsborough on March 16.
Tomorrow, Huddersfield, a point clear of the Owls but defeated 4-1 at Brighton, entertain rejuvenated Boro, while Barnsley, who are just a point above the drop zone after a home defeat to Bolton, head to Burnley.