Premier League side Hull City were given a fright on Sunday when they had to come from behind twice to beat obstinate third-tier Sheffield United 5-3 in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium in London to reach the final of the competition for the first time.
In a frantic opening half, Jose Baxter gave Sheffield United a shock lead on 19 minutes, before Yannick Sagbo equalized for Hull in the 42nd minute, only for Stefan Scougall to restore the League One side’s advantage just before halftime.
Hull fought back at the start of the second period, with substitute Matty Fryatt and Tom Huddlestone scoring in quick succession, before Stephen Quinn’s header effectively wrapped up the victory for the Premier League club.
Jamie Murphy snatched a late consolation for Sheffield in injury time, before Hull added a fifth through David Meyler.
Hull will play Arsenal in the final at Wembley on May 17 after Arsene Wenger’s side sneaked past Wigan Athletic on penalties in the other semi-final on Saturday.
After being run so close by the League One club, Hull manager Steve Bruce was both delighted and relieved to reach the final.
“We were awful [in the] first half, but I have to say a special well done to Sheffield,” he told reporters. “They handled it better than we did in the first half so all credit to them, but I am delighted for Hull City to play Arsenal in an FA Cup final.”
Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough was left ruing the equalizing goal they conceded after halftime.
“We were close to making history as the first third-tier side to get to an FA Cup final and at halftime I thought we were well worthy of our lead,” he said.
“We played well first half and they changed it second half. The second goal, the one just after halftime, was the killer blow for us as it got them totally going,” Clough said.
Sheffield looked comfortable against their top-flight opponents in the opening stages, passing the ball crisply around the Wembley turf before taking the lead on 19 minutes when John Brayford’s cross was prodded in by former Everton forward Baxter.
Hull rarely troubled Sheffield for much of the first half, but they snatched an equalizer when Sagbo latched on to Jake Livermore’s perfectly weighted pass to fire the ball into the roof of the net.
The equalizer was harsh on United, who were playing with plenty of vim and vigor, and they restored their advantage two minutes later when Murphy tore down the left flank and cut the ball back from the byline for Scougall to lash past Steve Harper.
In search of more attacking impetus, Hull manager Steve Bruce introduced forwards Sone Aluko and Fryatt at halftime and it paid off as United failed to deal with a corner and Fryatt was on hand to sweep the ball home.
United were on the back foot and a neat one-two between Meyler and Huddlestone on 54 minutes enabled the former Tottenham Hotspur player to burst into the box and place a left-footed shot past Mark Howard, giving Hull the lead for the first time.
With 30 minutes remaining, substitute former Sheffield United player Quinn headed in Livermore’s chipped cross to give the Premier League side a bit of breathing room.
However, United, who were bidding to become the first third-tier side to reach an FA Cup final, refused to roll over and when Murphy smacked a loose ball into the net it set up a nervy few minutes for the Hull supporters.