Tom Huddlestone earned a long-awaited trip to the barber after inspiring Hull to a stunning 6-0 victory over an inept Fulham at the KC Stadium.
Huddlestone was the star performer as the Tigers forced home six unanswered goals in a second half that was shamefully mismatched, capping his afternoon’s work by finding the net for the first time in two and a half years.
The midfielder has grown an impressive afro since pledging not to cut it until ending his drought and when he drove home his side’s fourth of the day he celebrated by allowing club physio Rob Price to sheer off a lock of hair.
And though Huddlestone stood out, there were heroes all over the park for the hosts with captain Robert Koren scoring twice, alongside efforts from Ahmed Elmohamady, George Boyd and Matty Fryatt.
After a dull first half, the battering Hull inflicted on their hapless visitors took on a slightly surreal air and they might easily have reached double figures as the Cottagers groped feebly for a foothold in the game.
Hull are not a prolific side and to sustain such a comprehensive hammering, their worst of the Premier League era, must leave Fulham psychologically scarred in their relegation battle.
The man who was at the coal face of this humbling was goalkeeper David Stockdale, who spent the second half of last season on loan at the KC Stadium and shared in the club’s promotion success.
Huddlestone soon established himself as Stockdale’s chief adversary, working him with a skiddy free-kick from the left and then rattling the post from a similar position on the opposite flank.
Hull were starting to assert themselves by now and moments after hitting the woodwork Boyd met Elmohamady’s cross from six yards. The midfielder did not get the cleanest connection but his effort would still have crept under the crossbar had Stockdale not got a hand to it.
Despite scoring three times against Liverpool and twice in the Boxing Day defeat to Manchester United, Hull have struggled for goals against lesser visiting sides and, as Elmohamady shot tamely from 20 yards, a familiar pattern appeared to be unfolding.
Fulham managed to push their hosts a little deeper as the match progressed and by the time referee Robert Madley blew for half-time all semblance of intensity had seeped out of the game.
Bruce must have come to the same conclusion and his team talk clearly had some effect.
The Tigers immediately poured forward, Huddlestone dragging a 20-yard effort fractionally wide before Stockdale made a fine double save.
Hull looked certain to score when Yannick Sagbo and Koren broke free on the counter but Stockdale denied both men.
First he pawed Sagbo’s low shot away and then stood tall as Koren attempted to fire the loose ball home from a couple of yards.
It was a brave intervention but it merely served to delay the inevitable.
From the resulting corner Elmohamady managed to bring the bouncing ball under control and lashed into the top corner on the turn.
The goal released some of the pressure that had started to build on the hosts and they immediatley began to play with confidence.
Fulham, in turn, lost their shape and it was no surprise when Koren bagged Hull’s second on the hour. Sagbo, increasingly influential, played provider with a pinpoint cross from the right with captain Koren providing the finishing touch for his first of the season.
Fulham’s defence was misfiring badly and there was no respite.
Just three minutes later Boyd was joining the fun, collecting Jake Livermore’s through ball and twisting into space as defenders inexplicably backed away from him. He took aim for the bottom corner and found it with aplomb. As Hull celebrated with glee, Fulham heads dropped all around.
Hull were eager to cash in and it was with a sense of inevitability that Huddlestone tried his luck from 20 yards after Maynor Figueroa’s drive was charged down.
After a season of trying and failing to find the net, his radar finally came good, and he immediately headed to the sidelines where Price was waiting.
With Fulham now looking likely to concede from every attack, Huddlestone almost scored a spectacular second.
Spotting Stockdale off his line he sent a 40-yard free-kick towards goal and was only denied when the back-pedalling keeper tipped against the bar.
Fryatt was on hand to tap home, a matter of minutes after arriving from the bench.
Fulham’s ragged back line yawned open one final time to allow Koren a simple second from close range, completing the rout.
HULL CITY (4-1-4-1): McGregor; Rosenior, Chester, Davies, Figueroa; Huddlestone; Elmohamady (McShane 77), Livermore (Graham 73), Koren, Boyd; Sagbo (Fryatt 66). Subs (not used): Harper, Bruce, Meyler, Faye,
GOALS: Elmohamady (49), Koren (60, 84), Boyd (63), Huddlestone (67), Fryatt (74)
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Stockdale; Zverotic, Hughes, Amorebieta, Riise; Sidwell, Karagounis (Richardson 75); Ruiz 5 (Kacaniklic), Kasami, Dejegah (Bent 64); Rodallega. Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Riether, Boateng, David.
REFEREE: Bobby Madley (West Yorkshire).