Cup final dream now a reality for Hull City
"Think you're dreaming?" asked an advertising wagon from Hull City's sponsors doing laps of Wembley during the build-up to Sunday's FA Cup semifinal. "Well think again," came the answer beneath. A Yorkshire derby in the capital against Sheffield United was one of those occasions when it needed spelling out. A day to disbelieve, to pinch yourself incessantly. But at the end of 90 captivating minutes, the reality was very simple: Hull City had reached the FA Cup final. - Report: Hull City 5-3 Sheffield United After 110 years of envying others in the spotlight, the Tigers will compete in the first showpiece final in their history on May 17. And the last leg of the journey almost made it all worthy of the wait. Edging an eight-goal epic beneath the Wembley arch, City refused to do it the east way. A timid and alarming first-half performance had 27,000 supporters clad in black and amber fearing the worst, but the transformation that followed was befitting of the big stage. A 5-3 win was as remarkable as it sounds. The reward is the most high-profile date in the club's colourful history; a final against Arsenal. City will begin as underdogs but at the end of a decade that has seen them climb from the fourth tier, the credentials of manager Steve Bruce's side ooze the romantic appeal so often synonymous with this competition. That almost worked against them in Sunday's all-Yorkshire semifinal. A Sheffield United side aiming to become the first side from the third tier to reach the FA Cup final were game enough to give City the fright of their lives. Not only did they lead at half-time, they fully deserved it. Goals from Jose Baxter and Stefan Scougall rendered Yannick Sagbo's response a flash in the pan and left City staring down the barrel. A routine win was unravelling spectacularly. Then came a contender for the most important team-talk in the club's history. And it came not from Bruce but from captain Curtis Davies. "Whatever he said to them was right. I quietly sipped my cup of tea," said the appreciative City boss. Home truths were told, according to Davies. "We were embarrassing ourselves," he said. The rousing words had the desired effect but Bruce underplayed his own role in a breathless turnaround. Admitting to his own tactical failings by introducing both Matty Fryatt and Sone Aluko, Bruce transformed a lethargic and meek display in a flash. By the middle of the second half it had proved enough to win it. Three goals in 18 minutes overturned Sheffield United's deserved lead at the break and deflated the League One side with ruthless precision. Fryatt's close-range finish soon after coming on was the killer blow in Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough's eyes, but Tom Huddlestone's sumptuous third was the real coup de grace. Exchanging passes with David Meyler to open up the Blades' defence, the England midfielder held off the last challenge and curled a majestic finish into the far corner. It was a picture of elegance. Stephen Quinn contributed his own thread of romance when sinking the side he served for eight years with the fourth City goal. There was still time for Sheffield United's fight to rumble on with a late consolation, but Meyler's expertly taken finish in stoppage-time provided a fitting last act. City had gone around the block but they had got there in the end. Much like their history, really. A club that was forced to wait 104 years for top-flight football now has its first FA Cup final after 110 years. Yet it need not end here. Sunday's win could eventually prove enough to send the Tigers into Europe. If Arsenal were to reclaim a top-four spot and cling to the Champions League for another year, City would automatically be sent into the Europa League in 2014-15. They do not want favours, however. To have come this far after 110 years, going one better than their class of 1930, Bruce and his side believe they can land silverware next month. They will be the side free of pressure when facing an Arsenal side enduring their own painful trophy drought. And why not? Stranger things have happened in FA Cup finals. Coventry, Wimbledon and, more recently, Wigan can vouch for that. Arms will have been red raw the morning after with supporters still pinching themselves but this adventure could yet end up being even more far-fetched. Think you're dreaming? Well, yes actually.