Bolton's early onslaught condemns Hull City to 4-1 defeat
HULL City's Championship promotion hopes suffered a heavy blow as they were thumped 4-1 at Bolton Wanderers this afternoon, the worst defeat of Steve Bruce's reign.
Despite heading to the Reebok Stadium hunting a fourth consecutive win, the Tigers' impressive form unraveled dramatically inside an abysmal start.
Darren Pratley, Mark Davies and Craig Dawson were all on the score-sheet for Bolton inside the first eight minutes and while Robbie Brady's strike midway through the second half threatened a comeback, Dawson's second condemned City to their heaviest defeat since August 2011.
The Tigers' inexplicable loss brought a fall down to third in the Championship, as Watford beat Derby County to climb up to second behind league-leaders Cardiff.
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City's fate was effectively sealed inside eight disastrous minutes.
With less than two minutes on the clock, the Tigers were behind to a beautifully crafted Bolton opener. Davies' pass to Chung-Yung Lee down the left flank saw the forward cross for Pratley, who dispatched an unstoppable diving header past David Stockdale.
Three minutes later the home side had doubled their lead. Scrappy play inside City's final third saw the ball fall to Davies and his low shot squirmed under the dive of Stockdale.
City's misery was not yet over, though, and with just eight minutes on the clock it was 3-0. A corner from the Bolton right was attacked by central defender Dawson and his downward header beat Corry Evans on the line.
The Tigers' were mentally scrambled by the defensive aberration and came close to conceding a fourth midway through the first half when Marvin Sordell's low shot clipped the outside of the post from 20 yards out.
Bolton's threat eventually faded as City began to enjoy greater periods of possession, but only Brady's acute free-kick forced Adam Bogdan into any kind of save.
Misplaced passes and poor touches were commonplace in a first half that few thought Bruce's men were capable of following three consecutive wins.
City's improvements had successfully stemmed the flow of Bolton's attacks but signs of a fightback remained few and far between after the break.
Alex Bruce headed over from Brady's free-kick but final balls into key areas were badly found wanting.
Although the Tigers eventually found a lifeline in the 68th minute when Brady's free-kick was deflected past the wrong-footed Bogdan, the scent of a comeback was lost inside two slack minutes.
After Stockdale needed to be strong to keep out Pratley's low shot and Dawson purposefully deflected a shot on to the post, a failure to clear lines allowed the latter to make no such mistake when turning in Marcos Alonso's drive.
The calamitous fourth captured City's dismal afternoon and though Bogdan saved from well from Brady's header, Bolton's win never looked in any real danger from the second minute onwards.
• Gallery: Hull City at Bolton in pictures