Hull City will head to Wembley in high spirits after a 1-0 win at home to Swansea City all but secured their Barclays Premier League survival.
Following four defeats in their previous five Premier League outings, Steve Bruce's men needed a morale boost ahead of next weekend's FA Cup semi-final against League One side Sheffield United at England's national stadium, and they got it by moving further clear of the relegation zone.
George Boyd, returning from a three-match suspension, towered above Angel Rangel to head home the only goal – his first since December – six minutes before half-time.
Bruce had urged the home supporters to recreate the atmosphere that propelled Hull to promotion from the Championship last season, and they were fully behind their team despite Swansea having the better of possession and the chances early on.
Just 10 years ago to the month, Hull won 3-2 at Swansea in the fourth tier of English football, and the Welsh side still have some work to do to retain their top-flight status, with an 11th successive away league match without victory keeping them only just above safety.
Swansea named an unchanged side, while Hull welcomed Maynor Figueroa and Boyd back into their starting XI following injury and suspension respectively.
Figueroa was quickly involved, producing a superb cross to give Shane Long a glorious chance, but the Republic of Ireland striker’s tame shot allowed Michel Vorm to push the ball behind for a corner.
Long responded positively on 16 minutes, however, controlling the ball with an exquisite touch and teeing up Boyd, whose low shot from the edge of the box forced Vorm into a comfortable save.
Figueroa, renowned for scoring from his own half for Wigan Athletic against Stoke City in 2009, tried his luck from 45 yards with another audacious attempt, but the ball went out for a throw.
The pace of Wayne Routledge and Jonathan de Guzman tormented Hull from the outset, and the former’s delightful throughball sent the latter racing into the area after 25 minutes. De Guzman cut inside his marker, but he hesitated and his shot was blocked.
Almost immediately, Wilfried Bony threaded the ball behind the hosts’ defence for Routledge. Noticing Steve Harper well off his line, Routledge attempted a chip but his weak effort went straight into the arms of the 39-year-old goalkeeper.
Nikica Jelavic then fired a free-kick narrowly over before Hull broke the deadlock six minutes before half-time. Liam Rosenior crossed to the back post and as Vorm stayed on his line, Boyd towered above Rangel to head home and leave the Swansea goalkeeper and full-back arguing.
Soon after the restart, Boyd tricked his way down the flank and delivered a threatening cross, which Long just failed to get his head to.
Thereafter, Swansea began to dominate possession, but despite some neat passing they failed to create a meaningful chance until the 70th minute, when substitute Nathan Dyer sliced his strike well wide after impressive play from Routledge.
Swansea's last chance fell to Bony, but after racing onto a pass from Jonjo Shelvey the Ivorian's wayward shot from inside the area went high and wide as Hull held on for a much-needed win.
Hull City manager Steve Bruce says: "It's a long way towards safety and a huge win in our season.
"We showed a resilience and determination to get something. Of course there are nerves and edginess but we've seen it through with another clean sheet.
"Now we can concentrate all week on how we're going to play against Sheffield United in the FA Cup, but semi-finals are always nervous and edgy. We've gone a long way to staying in this division and a cup final would be a marvellous way to end the season."
Swansea City manager Garry Monk: "We were very poor in the first half, nowhere near good enough. In the second half we had the right attitude but did we really do enough? I don't know. We played too many sloppy balls, had too many touches and I expected better.
"It's bitterly frustrating for all of us but the first half is where we lost the game. We had a few half chances but we only maybe created enough for a draw, not to win it. It's back to the drawing board and about making sure we get a reaction.
"We're not safe and I don't know why anyone would celebrate 33 points. It's not good enough for the quality of players we've got and we're not going to rest until the end of the season."
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|03 May 2014||v Aston Villa (A)|
|06 May 2014||v Man Utd (A)|
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|16 Aug 2014||v QPR (A)|