PA

Stoke City subdue stagnant Tigers

Liam Lawrence guaranteed Stoke's English Premier League survival with a stunning strike that pushed Hull closer to relegation.

Lawrence blasted home from 25 yards with 18 minutes remaining at the KC Stadium to double his side's advantage after an earlier Ricardo Fuller effort.

Andy Dawson replied with an injury-time free-kick but it was too late as Stoke held on to clamber to 42 points and safety.

Hull complained after substitute Geovanni thought his late shot had been deflected for a corner but referee Howard Webb awarded a goal-kick and then blew the final whistle.

The result left Hull with just two wins in 26 games since October and with their survival hopes depending largely on the form of Middlesbrough and Newcastle below them.

Stoke, whose position had seemed relatively safe anyway, can now plan for next season with certainty they will again be rubbing shoulders with the elite.

And in a season when they have been criticized for their direct and physical style, they could reflect on the fact a genuine moment of brilliance from Lawrence had secured their safety.

Both sides showed plenty of early determination and chances came at either end in the opening 10 minutes.

Matthew Etherington created the first opportunity for Stoke but drilled a low shot wide and a menacing cross from Lawrence was scrambled clear by Sam Ricketts.

Ricketts then broke clear for Hull down the right but was fouled by Etherington, who was booked for the challenge, and Dawson wasted the free-kick.

Thomas Sorensen was the first goalkeeper tested when he palmed over a Daniel Cousin header after Craig Fagan won the ball on the right.

Richard Garcia then showed great control in the Stoke box to create a shooting chance but Sorensen clung on.

Lawrence responded with an ambitious attempt from wide on the right which Boaz Myhill felt was sailing well over, but it dipped and only just cleared the bar.

Hull's supporters then appealed for a penalty after Nick Barmby went down under a Ryan Shawcross challenge as George Boateng crossed but the players themselves seemed unconcerned.

Stoke finished the first half strongly and snatched the lead after Lawrence, afforded too much space by Hull, had a shot deflected for a corner by Kamil Zayatte.

Lawrence's cross from the resulting set-piece caused chaos and Zayatte and Boateng both ended up on the ground in the ensuing scramble.

The ball kindly broke to Fuller and the striker made no mistake as he turned and fired past Myhill from close range with 40 minutes gone.

Hull at least started the second half brightly with Kevin Kilbane's mishit shot still bringing a good save out of Sorensen.

Glenn Whelan went close to adding a second for Stoke with a dipping half-volley from the edge of the box which just dropped over the bar.

Hull needed to rouse themselves and Garcia forced Sorensen to save with a firm header from a Barmby cross.

Garcia then won a free-kick when he was brought down on the edge of the area by Andy Wilkinson but Dawson blasted wide.

With a replica of his earlier effort, Whelan then went even closer just after the hour with a well-controlled shot which crashed against the inside of the post.

Hull, having moments earlier brought on Manucho and Bernard Mendy in a double attacking change, were forced into a third when Zayatte went off injured.

The defender, already bandaged with a head wound, needed lengthy treatment after a further blow and Brown attempted to lift his side by boldly replacing him with Geovanni.

It did not pay off as Lawrence doubled Stoke's lead with his stunning strike.

Again afforded far too much space on the right, Lawrence took a Fuller pass in his stride and unleashed a fierce shot which gave Myhill no chance.

Hull heads dropped and they struggled to find a way through a resolute Stoke defense.

Barmby did get one opportunity when he headed narrowly wide from a Ricketts cross but time ran out for the Tigers.

Dawson netted belatedly with a curling free-kick as the game entered six minutes of injury time but it was too little too late.

Hull created one last chance and Geovanni thought his shot had been deflected for a corner but Webb did not agree.

With a trip to Bolton and a home clash with Manchester United remaining, Hull's position is looking precarious.