Hull City 2 - 3 Everton
Andros Townsend scored a somewhat fortunate but no less welcome extra-time winner
Everton dragged themselves into the FA Cup Fourth Round thanks to an Andros Townsend strike in extra-time that removed the threat of another cup exit on penalties under Rafael Benitez.
In what was a contest largely settled by the respective goalkeepers, Nathan Baxter's positioning mistake allowed Townsend to belt home what proved to be the winner and Asmir Begovic pulled of a brilliant save at the other end to ensure the Toffees avoided against Hull the fate that befell them at QPR in the Carabao Cup back in September.
Benitez had raised eyebrows again with a remarkably reactionary formation for this trip to Championship strugglers, deploying Seamus Coleman as a centre-half in a five-man back line that included another right-back, Jonjoe Kenny, as well as debutant Vitalii Mykolenko as the other wingback.
Despite that defensive posture, Everton made a shocking start to the game and Hull could have scored three times in the opening quarter of an hour. The Tigers had the ball in the net with just 45 seconds on the clock as Benitez's defence displayed their mind-boggling inability to effectively defend set-pieces by gifting Tyler Smith a free header from a free-kick.
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Begovic was then called into important action in the fifth minute when Tom Eaves was picked out with a simple cross from the right, the Bosnian palming his header over bar and then denying the striker 11 minutes later with a parry behind.
The Blues had been pretty dreadful to that point but they came to life in the 21st minute when Anthony Gordon and Demarai Gray combined to carve the home defence open.
Gray turned in-field off the left touchline and passed to Gordon who held his pass before slipping his team-mate in with a beautifully-weighted pass and Gray slotted cooly past Baxter to make it 1-1.
Gordon was the standout player in royal blue and he came close to turning the tie on its head just two minutes later but screwed a shot against the outside of the post after he'd cut back inside a defender and Baxter had to be alert to push aside a shot from Gray as the Premier League side started to look more like the part.
Michael Keane was almost the surprise scorer of a second Blues goal when he exchanged passed with Gordon, this time down the right but the keeper was equal to his attempt to find the far corner.
But Hull's defence was breached again in the 32nd minute when Gordon found Kenny on the overlap and his chipped low cross was attacked bravely by Andre Gomes and his header found the net via Baxter's flailing arm to put Benitez's men ahead.
Hull didn't bow, however, and they continued to make inroads into Everton's defence as the first half wore on, with Jacob Greaves almost getting in for a chance off a flick-on from a throw in but Kenny cleared the ball away.
The second period was the spell that should have seen the visitors wrap up the tie but they were unable to capitalise on some promising openings, the best of which fell to Gordon who was played in by Gray but the young winger was foiled by Baxter.
Gray also had an effort blocked and from the ensuing corner, Mykolenko blazed over but the Blues' momentum was visibly checked by Benitez's decision to withdraw Gordon with 25 minutes of the regulation 90 to go.
And within six minutes, Hull were level. Veteran midfielder Tom Huddlestone, recently on as a substitute himself, won a challenge against Kenny in the middle, and found fellow sub Graham Moncur played it back to Ryan Longman, the third of Hull boss Grant McCann's changes, who curled an excellent shot around Begovic into the top corner.
With Gray bending a shot of his own agonisingly wide and then spurning another chance when Townsend was, perhaps, better placed, Everton came close to winning it and staving off extra-time and Hull came within minutes of causing an upset when Keane Lewis-Potter rattled the post with Begovic beaten.
Forced into an extra 30 minutes of action, Everton made the crucial breakthrough in the 99th minute. Townsend picked up the ball in the middle of Hull's half and sized up a shot from 25-plus yards that dipped and swerved enough that Baxter misjudged its flight and then proved powerless to keep out.
And yet Everton were almost pegged back to 3-3 five minutes into the second half of extra-time when Hull won a corner, and Eaves drilled a shot that seemed destined to fly into the goal before Begovic got a low, stiff glove to it and kept it out and Hinds was unable to turn the loose ball home.
On the whole, an unconvincing performance from the Blues that does little to dispel the concerns around the manager but one that was enough to see them into the next round.
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