Report: Albion 1 Hull City 0Cometh the hour, cometh the man – so take a bow Vicente for keeping Albion’s play-off dreams well and truly alive.
An exciting game was heading for an unlikely stalemate until the mercurial Spaniard stepped up to drill a superb free-kick home with just seven minutes left on the clock.
The win leaves Albion just two points outside the top six and rejuvenated after last weekend’s disappointing defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.
Indeed, Albion came into the game looking to erase the memory of the 3-1 defeat at Hillsborough, with Gus Poyet bringing back Bruno for the first time in 2013 following his Achilles injury, while Matthew Upson made his Amex debut in the back four.
With the Tigers operating a five-man midfield, Ahmed Elmohamady was a willing outlet down the right flank, and the Egyptian carved out the game’s opening chance for Jay Simpson, but the ex-Arsenal man blasted over the bar.
Robert Koren also scuffed an effort wide for Hull in the opening stages, while Adam El-Abd put in a last-ditch tackle to stop the Slovenian with just ten minutes on the clock.
Albion had 70 per cent of the possession during this time, but their first effort did not arrive until the 14th minute when Bruno’s shot from 18 yards was deflected away for a corner by ex-Seagull Paul McShane.
Craig Mackail-Smith, back in the side at the expense of the suspended Ashley Barnes, also saw a sight on goal but his tame effort on 24 minutes failed to trouble David Stockdale.
The Hull keeper had to be at his best, however, on 28 minutes when he pushed away a fierce drive from David Lopez as the Seagulls upped the tempo.
The visitors were forced to make a change moments later when Alex Bruce suffered a dead leg, to be replaced by Corry Evans.
Evans’ first contribution was a trip on Leonardo Ulloa on the edge of the box but Andrea Orlandi’s resulting free-kick was tipped over by Stockdale.
The Argentine later headed goalwards from a deep Bruno cross but for all their dominance, Albion went in scoreless at half-time.
Upson was called into action immediately after the restart to clear the danger underneath his own crossbar while Koren – having dived to win a free-kick – drove his effort wide.
Simpson then went close with a header and with the visitors making the better start to the second half, Gus Poyet reacted by bringing on Vicente for Dean Hammond.
The Tigers kept the pressure up with Koren failing to convert Stephen Quinn’s cross while a deep ball into the box by Robbie Brady was volleyed wide by David Meyler.
Albion’s best chance of the game came in the 66th minute when a superb ball by Vicente released Wayne Bridge down the left flank. The full-back’s low cross was only half cleared to Orlandi, but the unmarked Spaniard blazed his effort over the bar from 12 yards out.
With the game opening up, Brady’s swerving effort was superbly tipped over by Tomasz Kuszczak, moments after Poyet had made his second change - Will Buckley coming on for Bruno, with David switching to right-back.
Kuszczak also pulled off another fantastic save to deny Elmohamady, and it proved to be the turning point in the game as Albion took the lead in their very next attack.
Evans again conceded a free-kick on the edge of the box, this time bringing down Orlandi. Vicente stepped up and drilled his effort low past Stockdale’s despairing dive.
Brady had a similar chance two minutes later after El-Abd had brought down Quinn, but the ex-Man United youngster could not follow the Spaniard’s lead – firing high over the bar – while Evans tried to make amends deep into injury, only to drag his effort wide.