Two first half goals and a late third means it is advantage Hull City as Derby County fell to a 3-0 defeat at the iPro Stadium in the first-leg of their Play-Off Semi-Final campaign.
Abel Hernandez broke the deadlock with a cool finish following a tight start to the contest, but the Tigers made their dominance towards the end of the half count as a Moses Odubajo strike took a heavy deflection off Jason Shackell and flew into the back of the net.
Though better in the second 45 minutes, Hull, astutely, saw the remainder of the game out, limiting Darren Wassall’s side to scraps in front of their goal.
With the game seemingly petering out, however, there was still one last sting in the tail as Hull broke at pace from a Derby corner, leading to Andrew Robertson planting a low shot into the bottom corner of the goal.
The result means Derby have a significant mountain to climb when they travel to the KC Stadium for the second-leg in four days time.
Tight, tentative, tense, hard fought, cautious, scrappy. These are just a few words that could be used to describe the opening stages of this Play-Off Semi-Final First-Leg meeting that had so much at stake.
Clearly determined to quickly halt any early Derby momentum, Hull worked to restrict the home side and a lot of the early battling was contested in the air.
Inside the opening 10 minutes there was only one chance and even that wasn’t a clear sighting as Hernandez, Hull’s top goalscorer, wildly volleyed over the crossbar from long range.
Imposing themselves on the contest, Hull had started slightly stronger and in one of their better spells of this period, in which Derby were camped inside their 18-yard box, Tom Huddlestone hit a left foot shot wide of Scott Carson’s near post.
A series of corners came to no avail for the Rams at the other end, but with a raucous crowd behind them, Derby got themselves on top - albeit briefly.
A stubborn Hull backline restricted Wassall’s men from rarely testing Eldin Jakupovic, in for the injured Allan McGregor, with Martin’s snap shot over the crossbar the only opportunity worth noting.
From there, the remainder of the half quickly went downhill for the hosts.
Hull fired their first warning only a minute before as Hernandez flicked a header over the crossbar at the near post, but the forward did not have to wait too much longer to make the breakthrough.
Beaten to a loose ball near the left side touchline, possession was poked into the path of the Uruguayan forward and after setting himself, he struck a composed finish beyond the reach of Carson into the corner of the goal.
The away section of the iPro Stadium entered delirium, but things would only get better for them.
Que the second warning sign – as Mohamed Diame waltzed through the Derby backline and poked agonisingly wide of goal following patient build up from the visitors, but again, it proved only to be a moment of reprieve as Hull struck again.
Steve Bruce’s side showed great patience and after Odubajo collected possession he struck a shot that, seemingly flying wide of goal, cannoned off Shackell and beat a stranded Carson.
Devoid of chances, the second 45 minutes was all about Hull holding on to their precious two goal advantage. What was clear was that the next goal would be key and there would be one.
A shot at either end was not crafted until the 68th minute as Diame drove a low effort into the arms of Carson and soon after Craig Bryson cut across a shot from the edge of the area and sent it wide.
Compared to the latter stages of the first half, Derby held control, bossed possession, dictated proceedings, but rarely threatened Jakupovic’s goal.
The 31-year-old got down low to collect a shot from range from Jacob Butterfield, the substitute, whilst he parried a similar attempt from Tom Ince, before the loose ball was whacked clear by Robertson.
In the dying stages, Ahmed Elmohamady smacked a shot into the side netting after rounding Olsson, but the visitors added salt to what was already a painful wound as they broke at pace from a Derby corner and Robertson smashed a low effort into the far bottom corner.
It acted as a big blow to Derby who now have a massive mountain to climb when they travel to the KC Stadium.
Derby County: Carson, Christie, Keogh (C), Shackell, Olsson; Hughes (Bent, 87), Bryson, Johnson (Butterfield, 60); Ince, Russell (Blackman, 71), Martin
Substitutes not used: Grant, Buxton, Hendrick, Baird
Hull City: Jakupovic, Odubajo, Dawson (C), Davies, Robertson, Huddlestone, Livermore, Elmohamady, Snodgrass (Clucas, 87), Diame (Bruce, 90), Hernandez (Akpom, 83)
Substitutes not used: Kuciak, Maguire, Maloney, Aluko
Attendance: 29,969 (3,009 Hull supporters)Tweets by @ dcfcofficial