Ten points from Jake Clifford helped give Hull FC’s testing Super League season a belated lift-off as they clung on to sink leaders Wigan 14-10 in a thrilling clash at the MKM Stadium.
Tony Smith’s men made a storming start then withstood serious late pressure to seal their second win on the bounce with a performance unrecognisable from their April travails that included a 40-0 derby thumping by Hull KR.
In contrast to the hosts’ gutsy spirit, embodied by two stellar shifts from Brad Fash in the front row, Wigan were flat-footed and error-strewn, and only a comeback double by Iain Thornley either side of the interval kept them in contention.
It was a surprising reaction from Matty Peet’s side who had oozed into Yorkshire on the back of six straight wins.
Hull were on the front foot from the start and struck after just six minutes when Darnell McIntosh chased down Clifford’s kick to the corner, with the Australian adding the first of his two conversions.
Liam Farrell set the alarm bells ringing as he cut through the defence with ease but Wigan could not convert and Hull extended their lead on the quarter-hour, Clifford stretching over after electing to run the last tackle.
The visitors, for whom five players featured in England’s thumping win over France at the weekend, looked flat-footed, coughed up errors and spurned their best chance so far when Thornley failed to grasp a high pass to the wing.
Clifford opted to stretch Hull’s lead to 14 by kicking the two after Chris Satae was penalised for a high tackle, before Thornley was sent spurting down the left by Bevan French but Hull held firm.
Thornley, making his first appearance of the season, looked most likely to break Wigan’s duck and after another jinking run, the 31-year-old finally got his reward five minutes from the break when he speared over from another French set-up.
As the rain poured down Wigan’s pressure was relentless, and Hull’s cause was not helped when Cam Scott and McIntosh both dropped kicks deep in their own territory.
But Peet’s men failed to capitalise on their territorial dominance and Hull, shored up by the reintroduction of Fash, scented another change in the game’s direction.
A mistake by Thornley deep in his own territory piled pressure on the visitors but Danny Houghton’s grubber bobbled free and was pounced upon by French, who burst half the length of the field before the danger was snuffed out.
In a dramatic final few minutes, Junior Nsemba knocked on from a set restart on the 10-metre line, Hull debutant Jake Trueman was sin-binned for holding down Joe Shorrocks, then Jez Litten’s error went unpunished as Wigan knocked on under the posts as the seconds ticked down.