A spirited Derby County gave everything as they pushed Hull City right to the final whistle at the KC Stadium, but came up agonisingly short as they bowed out of Play-Off Semi-Finals 3-2 on aggregate.
Johnny Russell got the ball rolling early on, converting at the far post at the second attempt, before Andrew Robertson’s own goal set the pulses racing 10 minutes before the interval.
Despite huffing and puffing, however, Darren Wassall’s side could not find the elusive third goal that would have forced extra time in Humberside as Hull set up a Wembley date with Sheffield Wednesday later this month.
There is certainly something that one thing that cannot be questioned about this Derby side on the night... they left everything out on the pitch.
From the start, Hull approached this fixture in the same manner as they did the second half of the reverse fixture last weekend and sat back to soak up any attempt of an early Derby start.
Wassall’s men signalled their intent from the start. Chris Martin and Russell chanced their arms early, firing over with efforts from range, but with all the talk pre-game being about an early goal, the Rams seemed intent on being the ones to get it.
On seven minutes, that opener came as Cyrus Christie raced away down the right and whipped a cross into the box towards Russell. Although he could not apply the finishing touch at the first time of asking, he showed persistence to make the most of his second opportunity and crashed it into the corner.
Immediately, the players raced the ball back to the halfway line and picked up where they left off and continued to ask the questions.
Russell bent a free kick wide after being hauled down on the edge of the area and Jeff Hendrick, returning to the midfield for the first time since March, blazed over a half volley.
After Martin had been hauled down right on the edge of the box, Hendrick’s tame effort was half cleared as far as Craig Bryson, who fizzed a drive agonisingly wide with Eldin Jakupovic left stranded.
Hull, although on the ropes, were far from out of the contest as Derby fans were left sweating on a Jake Livermore attempt from the edge of the area that took a nick off a Rams player and flew wide.
There was also a goal mouth scramble that the visitors survived as Will Hughes hooked the ball away, but Derby stood firm to see the rest of the half out with a dream two-goal advantage.
From there, the Rams started the second half just as strongly and hit the front foot.
Bryson could not quite direct a Weimann cross towards the back of the goal early on, whilst Martin smashed a free kick into the wall.
At the other end, Robert Snodgrass sent his own free kick into the wall and Mohamed Diame drove a chance wide as Steve Bruce’s side enjoyed one of their better spells in the contest.
That aside, normal service resumed as Derby dictated possession, pulling their black and orange striped opponents from one side to another as they sought that precious third goal.
Will Hughes, the influential midfielder, bent a shot over and Martin forced Jakupovic into a fine save after collecting a loose ball from a corner.
With just over 15 minutes remaining, Tom Ince, the substitute, was next to try his luck, but he could only fire over after a neat flick from Hughes and as time ticked towards its conclusion, Wassall threw Darren Bent and Abdoul Camara into the mix to try and complete the unlikeliest of comebacks.
It was, however, to no avail as Hull dealt with everything a spirited Derby threw at them to set a Wembley final date with Sheffield Wednesday later this month.
Hull City: Jakupovic, Odubajo, Dawson, Davies, Robertson, Huddlestone (Meyler, 52), Livermore, Snodgrass (Maguire, 90), Elmohamady, Diame (Clucas, 90), Hernandez
Substitutes not used: Kuciak, Bruce, Maloney, Akpom
Derby County: Carson, Christie, Keogh (C), Shackell, Olsson (Camara, 90); Hughes, Hendrick, Bryson; Weimann (Ice, 60), Russell (Bent, 82), Martin
Substitutes not used: Grant, Buxton, Johnson, Butterfield
Attendance: 20,470 (2,309 Derby supporters)Tweets by @ dcfcofficial