An incredible own goal and late Ross Barkley header ensured that Everton cancelled out another vintage Robert Snodgrass display as Hull City were masters of their own downfall once more in the Premier League.
Dawson nets an early goal for the Tigers
Whilst Ronald Koeman's Everton made the trip to Hull with a familiar system, the hosts issued a surprise with Adama Diomande and David Meyler replacing Tom Huddlestone and Sam Clucas, the latter after covering the second most mileage in the top flight behind Jordan Henderson. Mike Phelan's reasoning was "to freshen things up with a lot of games in a busy period" as the man who has played a part in 50% of Hull's goals this season, Robert Snodgrass, dropped into a deeper role to allow Diomande to support Dieumerci Mbokani in attack.
In their last game of the calendar year, the Tigers would have been keen to get off to a good start and enter 2017, when Hull will become the City of Culture, in high spirits. It is their form in the city that will be crucial, as pointed out by Harry Maguire before the game who stated "picking up positive results at home is key to staying in any division". As the fog descended at a misty KCOM stadium, it was Hull who settled the quicker as Diomande and Snodgrass drifted around a flexible formation. The latter created the first chance of the game as he curled an effort wide from the corner of the box when afforded time and space by Leighton Baines on the right flank.
It was to be Snodgrass who created the opening goal as early as the sixth minute when the hosts were rewarded for an adventurous start to the match. Snodgrass delivered a teasing corner that was flicked on by Curtis Davies and met by his defensive partner Michael Dawson. The veteran peeled away from the Premier League's second highest appearance maker Gareth Barry to stab Hull into a confidence boosting lead. The goal was Dawson's third of the campaign, more than any other top flight defender, and ended a 287 minute wait for Hull to hit the back of the net. The Tigers' fastest strike of the season thus far.
Hull defence buckles after holding firm until first-half stoppage time
Everton finally began to find a foothold in the game in the 12th minute as Kevin Mirallas cut inside to strike a deflected effort that forced David Marshall to push the shot wide. Seamus Coleman was then inches away from equalising for the visitors moments later, as he met a Barry cross with a powerful header that rebounded off the post. Snodgrass and Barry were continuing to prove the architects for either side, as Mbokani misguided the former's cross at one end, before Barry fed Ross Barkley on the edge of the box only for Everton's top appearance maker in 2016 to hook his effort wide. Barry himself then struck a long-range effort just off target with Marshall left rooted to the spot.
Hull fans and players alike would have been feeling the nerves and the hosts tried to give themselves breathing space, though Diomande could only turn Andrew Robertson's cross wide after a trademark stride out of defence from Maguire. Yet the visitors continued to press at the opposite end of the pitch, as the previously quiet Romelu Lukaku saw his blocked effort spin into the path of Mirallas, but the Belgian could only hook his effort into the arms of Marshall. Mirallas then linked up with Enner Valencia before dragging another strike just wide.
Lukaku was gradually beginning to grow into the game and it was to be his contribution that affected an equaliser for Hull right on half-time. The powerful striker forced a corner when his strike was blocked by Davies, before Hull goalkeeper Marshall had a moment to forget. Under pressure from both Lukaku and teammate Mbokani, the Scot attempted to punch clear the resulting Mirallas corner only to completely misjudge his clearance and fist the ball into the back of his own net. Heartbreak for Mike Phelan and Hull City as the half-time whistle sounded.
Snodgrass strikes back
Everton were keen not to start the second half as they did the first and instantaneously Barkley burst forward before feeding Lukaku. The Everton top goalscorer then fired an effort that was deflected by Dawson before being tipped against the crossbar by Marshall as he looked to restore his confidence. With Barkley beginning to pull the strings and the Belgian influence gripping the KCOM, Mirallas first flicked a header over before driving a shot straight at Marshall. A flick on from Lukaku then set Barkley through, only for his side-footed effort to be captured by the Hull goalkeeper as Everton steamed forward in the opening ten minutes of the second half.
Yet Hull still offered a threat on the counter-attack and Mbokani won a free-kick in a dangerous position to allow the hosts breathing space. It was just inches away from creating more though, as Snodgrass whipped the set-piece against the crossbar with Joel Robles rooted to the ground. As the Tigers began to settle down after the shock they encountered on half-time, a lazy Everton defence were too slow advancing from their penalty area and an Ahmed Elmohamady lofted ball found Dawson who volleyed his effort at Robles.
Their advances were duly rewarded on 65 minutes as Maguire stepped forward from defence again and was barged to the floor by Baines. After hitting the woodwork from a similar position earlier in the half, Snodgrass curled a trademark free-kick past Robles and into the back of the net. Though the Everton goalkeeper would certainly have felt he should have done better after getting a hand to the strike.
The Tigers are clawed down for a second time
The goal struck a chord of positivity throughout the hosts as they went in search of killing the game off. Yet after withstanding a spell of pressure, Everton responded with Dawson being forced into two courageous blocks, from Barkley and Mirallas respectively, before the former drove an effort that forced Marshall into action again.
Hull began to show their nerves once more, consistently giving the ball away and dropping deeper into their penalty area. With ten minutes left on the clock the visitors had a very good shout for a penalty turned down when substitute Tom Davies' cross was seemingly handled by Jake Livermore. Yet the hosts were eventually made to pay again when Elmohamady turned his back on Baines, before the left-back whipped a cross in between Davies and Robertson that was guided home by the head of Barkley.
With time running out, Everton could have and should have earned all three points. Coleman delivered a telling ball onto the head of teenage substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin, only for the 19-year old to divert his header wide from point blank range. Yet as the full-time whistle blew, it was little consolation for a Hull City side that will only be too aware of another two points dropped when they should have gained all three.