Hull City have picked up a vital win, defeating Middlesbrough 2-1 at the KCOM Stadium. Boro went in front through a Britt Assombalonga penalty only to see Herbie Kane's free-kick level the match three minutes later.
The game appeared to be headed for a draw until a Mallik Wilks strike in the first minute of second half injury time gave the Tigers their first win since New Year's Day. Hull move out of the relegation zone and are on 45 points, one point ahead of Boro, who are perilously close to the drop zone in 21st.
Story of the game
The match had a quickfire start as Middlesbrough won a penalty inside of three minutes. Marvin Johnson lashed a shot at Hull goalkeeper George Long, who saved but saw the rebound drift out to Hayden Coulson, who was tripped up by Jordy de Wijs. Assombalonga stepped up and sent Long the wrong way, dispatching into the top right corner to give Boro the lead.
The Tigers struck back within five minutes. Wilks, who signed for the club on a permanent basis earlier in the day, won a free kick from 20 yards out and Liverpool loanee Kane curled a shot past Dejan Stojanovic for his second goal in as many games.
Patrick Roberts asked questions of the Hull defense, seeing his first shot blocked and, cutting in from the right flank, blazing his second over the Hull crossbar. Kane was forced to the sidelines after the first drinks break with an injury, replaced by George Honeyman and he soon was in the thick of the action.
The excellent Wilks again won a free-kick just outside the Middlesbrough box with Honeyman swinging in only to see the referee blow for a free kick in the other direction. The Tigers were forced into another substitution when Paddy McNair elbowed Callum Elder in the head, replaced by Kevin Stewart.
Hull made their third change at halftime with James Scott replacing Keane Lewis-Potter down the left and he was involved in the first threat of the second half, curling a shot past the far post. The visitors made their first change when Djed Spence was replaced by Lewis Wing.
Boro enjoyed another good spell of play, Coulson sending a header off-target and de Wijs needing to head away the danger from Luke Saville's effort. Marcus Tavernier replaced Roberts in the 62nd minute and he almost put the visitors back on top with a rasping effort that just flashed wide.
Substitute Jon Toral played a ball wide to fellow sub Lewis-Potter, Howson seeing off the danger. With time ticking down and the game appearing to be headed for a stalemate, de Wijs played a knockdown from a high ball to Wilks, who beat Stojanovic from close range in the first minute of stoppage time to cap a memorable day for himself and give Hull an invaluable three points.
Man of the Match: Mallik Wilks
It couldn't be anyone else as the 21-year old not only scored the goal that may very well help Hull stay in the Championship, but he was lively throughout the game, creating chances, setting up teammates and showing why the Tigers signed him to a permanent deal from Barnsley.
It's all a bit up in the air with a 12 point deduction hanging over Wigan Athletic, but this victory for Hull could see them retain their Championship status as they showed a toughness previously not seen. Wilks is at the KCOM for the foreseeable future and if the club can get Kane signed, they have a duo to lead them for years to come.
Neil Warnock will be bitterly disappointed, as his side capitulated at precisely the wrong time and failed to take advantage of good spells of play by not finishing, whilst they were unable to deal with Wilks' pace and creativity. Only one point above the relegation places, the game may be the biggest the club has lost in years if they fall into the third tier.