City put a vexing seven days behind them to reignite their title charge with a lionhearted 2-0 win over the Tigers.
After a three week break from Premier League duties, the Blues reduced arrears at the table summit to six points, thanks to goals from David Silva and Edin Dzeko that bookmarked the start and end of the match.
The odds were stacked against the title-chasers when Vincent Kompany was sent-off after just ten minutes but Silva opened the scoring with a sublime strike from 25 yards three minutes later.
Dzeko slotted in with injury-time looming to end the mini-striker drought and secure all three points.
Equally important to the victory was the improvised defensive partnership of Martin Demichelis and Javi Garcia who repelled everything Hull could throw at them for the first 70 minutes, before Joleon Lescott arrived as a reinforcement.
The tag of perceived title favourites has been passed back and forth like a lavish restaurant bill between three deferential diners in recent weeks, but the true identity of the front runners for the final third of the season was only ever going to emerge through events on the pitch.
A lunchtime kick-off at the KC Stadium, a ground City had never left with three points in tow, presented an opportunity to sink teeth into the nine point lead Chelsea had accumulated while Manuel Pellegrini’s men had been busy spinning plates across three other competitions.
Just 62 hours had passed since Daniel Alves brought an end to the season’s European escapades at the Camp Nou and left Kompany to declare that there was "nothing left in the tank" after City’s doughty shot at an improbable undertaking.
"Under a fortnight ago, the captain raised aloft the first silverware of the season, making some of the more reactionary ‘crisis’ talk feel somewhat premature."
...Hull v City: Match report...
Surprisingly City actually boasted the joint-best league record over the last six game weeks before this encounter, though there’s no doubt that an immediate reaction was required against this in-form Hull side to prevent Chelsea disappearing from view.
Pellegrini was able to introduce fresh legs into his starting XI, making four changes from the team that started in Spain.
Gael Clichy, Martin Demichelis and Javi Garcia came into the side as the Chilean again opted for a five-man midfield, with Dzeko replacing the injured Sergio Aguero in front of a revolving support cast of Silva, Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri.
Steve Bruce had the luxury of a full week to prepare for the game and he made his intentions clear by naming an attacking line-up which featured Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long in attack, with David Meyler, Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore across midfield in front of a three-man defence and wing-backs.
City’s recent toils against this type of system were well documented following the FA Cup defeat to Wigan but the Blues were only able to face off against it with 11 men for ten minutes.
Kompany was caught in possession by Jelavic 40 yards from goal and proceeded to haul back the Croatian rather than allow him a clear run on goal, leaving referee Lee Mason little option but to send him off for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.
However, the captain may have had a case in his protestations that he was fouled by the Hull striker before the incident occurred.
Javi Garcia dropped in alongside Martin Demichelis at the heart of a defence which may have been expecting a Hull onslaught, but it was City who opened the scoring just three minutes after the red card courtesy of Silva.
David drifted inside from the right and curled a beautiful, arcing left-footed shot into the corner of Alan McGregor’s net for his 25th goal for the club.
It was hardly a strike against the run of play, despite the one-man deficit, City were still the side most likely to score the game’s second goal, with Joe Hart only required intermittently to tidy up with catches and clearances.
With the wind in Blue sails, Pablo Zabaleta nearly scored one of the goals of the season after half an hour when he struck a dipping volley from the edge of the area which rebounded off the underside of the crossbar and bounced on the line with McGregor beaten.
"The Goal Decision System (correctly) said no."
...Hull v City: Match report...
Two minutes later, Hull were perhaps fortunate to keep their full complement of players on the field but Elmohamady’s ugly, late, high tackle on Silva was only punished by a yellow card.
Only one scare arrived before half-time when an offside Meyler had the ball in Hart’s net, meaning City could reflect on an excellent first-half’s work, inspired by the makeshift but rock-solid partnership between Demichelis and Garcia.
City have won each of their last 20 competitive games Silva has scored in but a huge effort would be required in the second half to keep up that record as legs would surely, inevitably, tire.
Hull’s seeming inability to stay onside was costing them the chance to put the Blues’ defence under any serious pressure but when Jelavic did manage to beat the trap he only fired into Hart’s gloves under no pressure seven minutes into the second period.
George Boyd cynically attempted to win a penalty for his side after 63 minutes but the referee wasn’t moved by his poor flop to the floor under pressure from Hart – however, it was only the goalkeeper who received a yellow card for his understandably furious reaction to the dive.
Lescott was first off the bench for City, replacing Toure with 20 minutes to play and City could and should have secured the points a minute later when the ball fell nicely for Fernandinho ten yards out but the Brazilian scuffed a chance to score his fourth goal for the club.
Another incredible chance fell for Dzeko to spare the fans a fidgety finale after 86 minutes but McGregor made the save from the one-on-one.
However, Edin made amends in the dying stages when he rolled home Silva’s brilliant through ball and City held on for three priceless points despite being a man down for more than 80 minutes.