Manager Grant McCann praised the impact of Hull’s substitutes in inspiring a comeback 2-1 win at Crewe courtesy of Mallik Wilks’ stoppage-time strike.
The Tigers briefly trailed after the break at Gresty Road when veteran Crewe striker Chris Porter fired in a penalty.
But referee Chris Pollard awarded another spot-kick soon after and substitute Josh Magennis made no mistake before Wilks hit the winner for the second time this season against Dave Artell’s side.
McCann said: “The character of the boys was excellent against a team who are very good at home. We showed excellent composure and calmness to win the game.
“It was nice to have Josh and Dan [Crowley] on the bench to come and make an impact. The subs gave us something.
“It was an important win given the other results – the top three have left it late to win games.
“I’d shouted to Mallik 15 seconds before to get the winner and it was a brilliant piece of skill from him to bring the ball onto his right foot.
“He’d gone a bit quite in the second half but I wasn’t thinking of taking him off as he’s always a threat in those areas.”
After back-to-back draws, McCann’s side could ill-afford to drop more points but they were were pressed back by Crewe in the first half and survived an early scare when Owen Dale’s header was pawed out of the far corner by Matt Ingram.
Hull went closest when Keane Lewis-Potter’s effort from an acute angle on the byline was turned around his own post by Olly Lancashire.
When Regan Slater lifted his arm to Charlie Kirk’s lofted ball, Porter made no mistake with the 66th-minute spot-kick.
But Hull were level when Pollard awarded a second penalty five minutes later after Callum Ainley tripped Callum Elder and Magennis smashed the kick past Will Jaaskelainen.
Jaaskelainen brilliantly kept out Crowley’s effort from close range before Wilks won it at the death to the dismay of Artell, who criticised his side’s weak mentality.
He said: “I didn’t think either side deserved to win it but that is what happens when you’re top of the league – you score with a deflected shot into the bottom corner.
“A draw would have been a fair result. The players need to understand the game a bit better late on. We play well for 60, 70 and 80 minutes but we don’t win – that’s an area of improvement for us.
“We’ve not won games this season we should have won, we possibly should have 10 to 15 more points and there’s one point today that goes on that tally.
“It’s disappointing because it’s happened too many times.”