Sheffield United moved to the top of the Sky Bet Championship with a 1-0 victory at home to Hull.
David McGoldrick’s penalty, awarded after 70 minutes when referee Peter Bankes felt Jack O’Connell had been unfairly manhandled from a cross, settled a game which had repercussions at both ends of the table.
Hull showed improvement from their tame surrender at home to Leeds on Tuesday, but they have won once in eight games and are now bottom of the pile.
With Chris Wilder having named an unchanged starting XI for a fourth consecutive game, it was not surprising that Sheffield United were soon on the front foot.
And the home side came close after just six minutes when Chris Basham’s cross from the right bamboozled Reece Burke, whose uncertainty nearly gifted Enda Stevens a tap-in.
United continued to probe a deep-lying Hull defence – especially on the left flank – and McGoldrick might have done better than spoon a side-footed attempt over the crossbar after good work from Mark Duffy.
The visitors’ cause was also hindered by an injury to striker Fraizer Campbell, who was replaced by Nouha Dicko on the half-hour mark.
But Hull’s enforced change coincided with a slight shift in momentum as Nigel Adkins’ side cautiously played their way into contention – albeit in non-threatening areas.
Yet Sheffield United remained a more potent offensive force, especially when the impressive Duffy had the ball.
And it was the 32-year-old playmaker that helped re-energise an increasingly frustrated Bramall Lane crowd with a cute back-heel towards Stevens inside the Hull penalty area.
Stevens struck firmly on target, but David Marshall was equal to it with a clean save low to his right.
Hull made a fleet-footed start to the second half, with Dicko’s strike off an astute Chris Martin flick-on nicely saved by Dean Henderson at his near post.
Henderson later produced a much more significant stop when he parried Markus Henriksen’s header away for a corner.
Henriksen was unmarked from Jackson’s Irvine’s fine cross from the right and should have scored from seven yards.
Sheffield United also had their moments – Billy Sharp hooked Kieron Freeman’s header wide after 61 minutes – but they lacked the necessary gold-dust where it mattered.
That was until McGoldrick sent Marshall the wrong way with a sweetly-taken spot-kick.
Sheffield United’s goal came slightly against the run of play, and though Hull tried hard in pursuit of an equaliser, they created little of note and Henderson was not tested again.
Hull centre-back Tommy Elphick felt he should have been given a late penalty for a similar offence that saw his team punished, but Bankes dismissed the claims as Wilder’s well-organised team edged to victory – and with it a place at the summit of the division.