HULL CITY STAGED a stirring second half fightback to book their first FA Cup final appearance with a thrilling 5-3 win over Sheffield United at Wembley on Sunday.
Steve Bruce’s side survived a stern test from the League One underdogs in a sensational semi-final and will face Arsenal on May 17 in the first major Cup final in Hull’s 110-year history.
United led through Jose Baxter and although Yannick Sagbo equalised Stefan Scougall restored their advantage before half-time.
The Premier League team finally made their extra quality tell after the interval and goals from Matty Fryatt, Tom Huddlestone, Stephen Quinn and David Meyler secured victory in Hull’s first FA Cup semi-final for 84 years despite Jamie Murphy’s late reply for United.
Hull owner Assem Allam suffered a frustrating defeat at Wembley in midweek when his controversial application to change the club’s name to Hull Tigers was rejected by the Football Association.
But this was a far more significant result for Allam and his club, who will play in next season’s Europa League if Arsenal qualify for the Champions League.
Nigel Clough’s men, the first third tier team to reach this stage of the competition since 2001, had already defeated Premier League opposition in Aston Villa and Fulham en route to the last four and they snapped tigerishly into their tackles in the opening moments.
Hull were unable to establish any momentum and it was no more than the Blades deserved when they took the lead in the 19th minute.
John Brayford crossed from wide on the right and Baxter timed his run perfectly to poke home at the near-post.
United’s dominance in the first half was so pronounced that their supporters broke into chants of Ole as their team played keep-ball for a long spell.
That show of confidence seemed to irk Hull into raising their game and Bruce’s side equalised in the 42nd minute.
Jake Livermore played a one-two in midfield, opening space to clip a pass into the penalty area, where Ivory Coast striker Sagbo was left unmarked to shoot past Mark Howard from 10 yards.
Sagbo celebrated by holding a finger to his mouth to indicate his delight at silencing the Sheffield gloating.
But Hull then lapsed back into their previous lethargy and allowed United to regain the lead two minutes later.
Murphy deserved credit for perseverance as he fought his way past Liam Rosenior on the left flank, but the Hull right-back’s attempt to block his path was far too flimsy.
Murphy took full advantage as he scampered into the penalty area before drilling a low cross towards Scougall, who crashed his first-time shot into the roof of the net.
Hull boss Steve Bruce responded by hauling off George Boyd and Maynor Figueroa at half-time, with Fryatt and Sone Aluko sent on to pep up the Tigers’ lacklustre forward line.
The changes paid instant dividends and Fryatt drew Hull level within four minutes of the restart.
A Hull corner caused chaos in the United defence, with James Chester shepherding the ball to Fryatt, who kept his cool to tap in from five yards.
Bruce’s half-time team-talk had worked wonders and Hull, at last showing why 44 places separated the sides in the league structure, carved open the Blades defence to take the lead in the 54th minute.
This one was all about the poise and power of former Tottenham midfielder Huddlestone, who exchanged passes with Meyler and held off Neill Collins’ challenge long enough to clip a fine finish past Howard.
No team from outside the top two divisions had reached the FA Cup final since 1902 and United were unable to rewrite history as former Blades midfielder Quinn headed in the fourth goal from Livermore’s cross in the 67th minute.
Murphy gave United hope when he struck in the 90th minute, but Hull went straight back up the other end and Meyler fired home to cap a pulsating finale.