Battling Hull City recorded a third straight win as Keane Lewis-Potter’s first-half header secured a hard-fought victory at Cardiff City.
Callum Elder replaced the suspended Di’Shon Bernard in an all left-footed back three as Grant McCann made one alteration from the victory over Birmingham City.
Tom Huddlestone returned to the matchday squad after five games out through injury, while Tom Eaves was also back among the substitutes.
The Tigers were looking to build on back-to-back wins for the first time this season and started purposefully in South Wales.
However, there was a fright on 12 minutes as Isaak Davies broke free and found himself one-one-one with Elder but a combination of the Australian and Richie Smallwood snuffed out the danger.
That defensive intervention took on greater significance as Hull City took the lead three minutes later through the club’s first set-piece goal of the campaign – and a man bang in form.
George Honeyman’s inswinging corner was flicked on by Ryan Longman, unmarked at the front post, for Lewis-Potter to guide a stooping header into the roof of the net.
There was an extraordinary moment midway through the half as Will Vaulks’ mammoth long throw bounced wickedly over a stranded Nathan Baxter and into the far corner of the net.
Cardiff thought they had equalised but as the throw had gone directly in without anyone getting a touch, the goal was not given – although Mark McGuinness was adamant he had made contact.
Undeterred, a high ball into the visitors’ box broke for Aden Flint to drill towards the near post but Baxter showed quick reactions to parry the ball behind.
Hull City were largely untroubled during the first half and Baxter made a simple stop to hold McGuinness’ towering header from Marlon Pack’s floated free-kick.
Already without five senior defenders, the Tigers’ personnel problems deepened as Elder was forced off through injury just before half-time, with Huddlestone coming on to play in a makeshift defence.
The Bluebirds re-emerged with greater intensity after the break and McGuinness should have done better with a free header from Joe Ralls’ free-kick but directed a tame effort straight at Baxter.
Ryan Giles then fizzed a menacing centre across the box which evaded a stretching Kieffer Moore and Leandro Bacuna glanced a header wide from another dangerous delivery from the other side.
The Tigers were struggling to live with the Cardiff onslaught as Moore planted a header from Ralls’ set-play straight down Baxter’s throat.
Against the run of play, McCann’s men so nearly grabbed a second on 58 minutes from a smartly-worked set-piece.
Smallwood’s short free-kick was clipped first time by Honeyman towards the back post, where Greaves headed back across goal and onto the upright, with Magennis inches away from connecting.
Greaves – still awaiting his first career goal – had another opportunity shortly after but was further away this time, side-footing over from 18 yards.
A crunching sliding challenge from Randell Williams on the edge of the box prevented Ralls from getting a shot away as Cardiff upped the urgency in the final 15.
James Collins rose to nod Giles’ cross off target and Ralls’ 20-yard right-footed drive was pushed away by Baxter.
Hearts were in mouths in added time as Pack’s long throw was inadvertently flicked on by Jevon Mills – on for his senior debut – but Collins crashed his header against the frame of the goal.
The Tigers were able to breathe a huge sigh of relief and the final whistle sounded moments later, confirming a third successive win and clean sheet.
Cardiff City: Alex Smithies; Mark McGuinness (Mark Harris 85’), Aden Flint, Curtis Nelson; Perry Ng, Will Vaulks (Joe Ralls 46’), Marlon Pack, Ryan Giles; Leandro Bacuna (Rubin Colwill 62’), Kieffer Moore, Isaak Davies (James Collins 62’).
Subs not used: Dillon Phillips, Sean Morrison, Ciaron Brown.
Hull City: Nathan Baxter; Jacob Greaves, Sean McLoughlin, Callum Elder (Tom Huddlestone 45’); Richie Smallwood ©; Keane Lewis-Potter, George Honeyman (Jevon Mills 90’), Greg Docherty, Ryan Longman; Josh Magennis (Tom Eaves 80’), Mallik Wilks (Randell Williams 67’).
Subs: Matt Ingram, Andy Cannon, George Moncur.