Hull manager Phil Brown breathed again as Seyi Olofinjana and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink fired his side to a priceless 2-1 Barclays Premier League win over 10-man Stoke.
The struggling Tigers had been heading for yet another damaging defeat - and Brown possibly for the sack - after Matthew Etherington's first-half strike at the KC Stadium.
But Hull were rewarded for their greater endeavour as Olofinjana levelled against his former club - and substitute Vennegoor of Hesselink won it in the final minute, moments after Abdoulaye Faye was sent off.
Hull had looked a different side for the presence of record signing Jimmy Bullard, making his long-awaited home debut after 10 injury-ravaged months.
They started with determination and Bullard, playing as Brown made five changes for what had been billed as a do-or-die match, was immediately to the fore.
But the opener came in the 29th minute as Etherington raced onto a long ball from Ryan Shawcross down the right and burst into the area unchallenged to beat Matt Duke at the near post.
Olofinjana claimed a superb equaliser just after the hour mark. Collecting the ball from Stephen Hunt, the Nigerian turned two players on the edge of the area before clipping a curling shot over Thomas Sorensen and into the top corner.
Hull survived a scare with eight minutes remaining when Glenn Whelan lofted in a free-kick and Ryan Shawcross hit the bar with a looping header.
Stoke were then left hanging on after Faye was dismissed with eight minutes remaining as a late challenge on Nick Barmby earned a second yellow card.
And Vennegoor of Hesselink, who had just come off the bench, was on hand to score the winner after a Bullard shot was beaten out by Sorensen.
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