THEY suffered yet another horrendous night with injuries, had just nine players on the field at the end and even saw an opponent equal a world record that has stood for 82 years.
However, defiant Hull FC were still in no mood to relinquish their grasp of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup even if they tried their hardest.
Lee Radford’s side, hoping to win the trophy for a third successive season, were made to fight all the way at Championship part-timers Featherstone Rovers who contributed to a thrilling sixth-round tie.
It descended into chaos at the end when Hull’s problems became self-inflicted; they had Danny Washbrook, Jake Connor and Jamie Shaul all in the sin-bin and Bureta Faraimo red-carded after the hooter had sounded for a high tackle on Shaun Robinson.
They had been 30-4 ahead when Josh Griffin powered over for a 32nd minute try, adding to efforts from Connor (2), Sika Manu and Shaul.
The superb Connor - thriving at half-back in injured Albert Kelly’s continued absence - improved each one. Everything looked simple.
But then winger Luke Briscoe crossed in the 36th minute to, remarkably, score for the 17th successive game and change the tone of the contest.
The only other player to do that was Leeds’s Eric Harris – the prolific Australian winger nicknamed The Toowoomba Ghost for the way he glided around opponents – who achieved the feat in the 1935-36 campaign.
Featherstone-born Briscoe, who started his career at Hull before switching to Leeds aged 17, began his stunning sequence in the final game of last season.
After adding a second score early in the second period from Tom Holmes’s wonderful pass, he has now amassed 28 tries along the way.
He will beat the record if he scores again in their Championship game with Leigh Centurions a week Saturday.
It was a classy effort to mark the milestone as well, Featherstone shifting the ball smartly to the right and full-back Anthony Thackeray chiming in to supply the final pass.
Martyn Ridyard converted from the touchline to leave the hosts trailing 30-10 at the break.
Thackeray, another former Hull player, had overcome a shaky start where he spilled two steepling Connor kicks and had possession ripped off him by Griffin, to score Featherstone’s first try in the 22nd minute.
He wriggled free of Griffin’s attempted tackle, an early sign that the visitors might be fragile, and it gave them confidence even though Shaul replied soon after, racing 70m when Josh Hardcastle spilled on the attack.
In the end, Hull had enough but they are counting the cost this morning ahead of their Magic Weekend clash with Hull KR.
Already without three half-backs and three front-rows, they lost one more of each, prop Josh Bowden in the ninth minute and stand-off Carlos Tuimavave limping off before half-time. Winger Fetuli Talanoa joined them in the 50th minute all with knee or ankle issues.
That was bad enough for Radford whose side, just 30-16 ahead and with Featherstone in the ascendancy, faced the prospect of a tense final half-hour with just one fit substitute on the bench.
Fortunately, for the Black and Whites head coach, Connor was still fit and able to show, once more, why he looks like a player destined to be world-class.
Filling in at stand-off again with Albert Kelly injured, he had already shone in the first period but then produced a magical pass, cutting out three of his own players, to find winger Faraimo with the try that gave them some much-needed breathing space.
When Featherstone were reduced to 12 men, it eased their task further. Briscoe, typically in the thick of it all, was the man yellow-carded having chased down Shaul to deny a certain try only to hang on too long.
In fairness, Shaul did well to even be in a position to support the impressive Joe Westerman’s break given the full-back had earlier been badly shaken by an awful tackle by Misi Taulapapa not long before.
Faraimo added his second try with a 90m breakaway effort when, with Rovers still down to 12, Holmes forced a pass too many.
No soon as Briscoe returned and Featherstone lost a man again, John Davies yellow-carded for a high tackle on Jez Litten.
As tempers boiled, Washbrook was sin-binned late on for alleged use of the knees leading to Gareth Hock – the veteran ex-Great Britain back-row who had a huge impact off the bench – scoring a well-deserved fourth try for the hosts at the death.
But then Brad Knowles was sin-binned in the 78th minute for a foul on Connor, the Hull player following, too, for his reaction.
But, by that point, he had done his work. Shaul became the sixth player yellow-carded in the final seconds for delaying a quick 20m restart and then came Faraimo’s madness as he was dimissed for the second time this term.
Featherstone Rovers: Thackeray; Briscoe, Hardcastle, Taulapapa, Robinson; Ridyard, Holmes; Wheeldon, Carlile, Knowles, Farrell, Davies, Lockwood. Substitutes: Wildie, Hock, Cooper, Brooks.
Hull FC: Shaul; Faraimo, Griffin, Hadley, Talanoa; Connor, Tuimavave; Green, Houghton, Bowden, Manu, Minichiello, Westerman. Substitutes: Matongo, Washbrook, Litten, Lane.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas (Wigan).