SO much for a Neil Warnock-led Middlesbrough coasting to safety then.

If Boro’s new manager needed an explanation for why Boro find themselves fighting for survival in the nether reaches of the Championship, he received it in his second game in charge at Hull’s KCOM Stadium.

Leading after just four minutes, Warnock’s charges were pegged back just four minutes later. Dominant in terms of possession and territory for more than 90 minutes, they failed to seriously extend Hull goalkeeper George Long, highlighting why they remain the lowest scorers in the second tier.

And just as they looked to be claiming what would have been an acceptable point as the clock ticked towards the second minute of stoppage time, Boro’s players switched off entirely to allow Mallik Wilks to stab home a dramatic winner that secured Hull’s first victory in 15 matches. As the well-worn saying goes, typical Boro.

Whereas Warnock would have left Stoke’s bet365 Stadium at the weekend buoyed by his side’s survival prospects, yesterday was a jolting reminder of just how much danger still remains. Wilks’ winner, which came after Jordy de Wijs outjumped the entire Boro defence to nod the ball down in the area, dropped Boro to within a point and place of the relegation zone with six games remaining.

Their fate remains in their own hands, but any suggestion that Warnock’s arrival would suddenly provide a panacea for all the ills that have been apparent this season has been well-and-truly dispelled.

Make no mistake about it, this is a battle that is likely to go to the wire, and while Boro were much the better side for most of yesterday’s game, their failure to make their superiority count was alarming. If they can’t beat a side whose most recent success had come on New Year’s Day, why are they suddenly going to start stringing victories together in the games that remain?

They couldn’t have wished for a better start yesterday as they were ahead inside the opening four minutes. Paddy McNair teed up Marvin Johnson for a low drive from outside the box, and while Hull goalkeeper George Long parried the full-back’s strike, Hayden Coulson would have swooped onto the rebound had de Wijs not muscled him to the ground.

Referee Geoff Eltringham immediately pointed to the spot, and Britt Assombalonga stepped up to find the top right-hand corner and claim his first goal since early November.

So far, so good, but amid a flurry of early excitement, Boro’s lead lasted less than four minutes before Hull hauled themselves level.

The home side’s equaliser also came as the result of a foul, with Johnson adjudged to have tripped Wilks as the Hull midfielder dribbled across the face of the 18-yard box.

It looked a marginal decision, but Herbie Kane took full advantage as he curled a pinpoint set-piece over the wall and beyond Dejan Stojanovic’s left hand.

Despite having gone 14 matches without a victory, Hull displayed their goalscoring prowess last weekend as they scored three times in a six-goal thriller at Birmingham.

Their defensive frailties were also apparent at St Andrew’s though, and Boro’s attackers were afforded plenty of freedom as they attempted to restore their side’s lead yesterday afternoon.

As had been the case at Stoke’s bet365 Stadium five days earlier, Patrick Roberts was the visitors’ primary threat, with his pace and impeccable close control repeatedly troubling Hull left-back Callum Elder.

The Manchester City loanee fired a deflected shot wide after Assombalonga narrowly failed to connect with Johnson’s floated cross from the left, and threatened again midway through the first half when he darted infield before shanking a shot well over the crossbar.

With Djed Spence pouring forward to support Roberts – the full-back delivered an excellent first-half cross at the end of a marauding run that led to Coulson scuffing a shot off target – Boro looked capable of causing problems whenever they advanced down their right-hand side. However, as the game wore on, so Hull’s defenders began to make a better fist of cutting off the supply line to Boro’s flanks. Spence’s departure through injury at the start of the second half was a further blow to the Teessiders’ attacking capabilities.

The Tigers were not really baring their teeth in attack – a weak header from de Wijs was their only first-half effort other than their goal – but given they went into the game having not won since New Year’s Day, Grant McCann’s side displayed a commendably high level of commitment and endeavour.

Boro’s players always looked like possessing the superior levels of skill, but with neither Paddy McNair nor George Saville able to offer much support to Assombalonga from the heart of midfield, the visitors struggled to carve out genuine openings in the 18-yard box.

Given Assombalonga’s increased isolation, it was a surprise that it took Warnock 62 minutes to make his first attacking change, and even then it was Marcus Tavernier rather than the surprisingly-absent Ashley Fletcher that came on to the field.

While the visitors dominated possession in the second half, they struggled to work Long in the Hull goal, although George Saville’s side-footed strike might well have caused problems had de Wijs not produced an excellent block at the heart of the penalty area.

Tavernier’s arrival on the right wing in place of Roberts ensured the energy quota on that side of the pitch did not drop, but having made an instant impact after coming off the bench at Stoke last weekend, the winger was not quite able to elicit the same effect for the second game in a row.

He went close though, surging infield after receiving the ball from Assombalonga before whistling a dangerous low strike just past the left-hand post.

Tavernier had the ball in the net with 13 minutes left, but having had to check his run to meet McNair’s slightly under-hit pass, the youngster was adjudged to have bundled over Leonardo Da Silva before slotting home. Replays suggested there wasn’t a great deal of contact, but it was probably sufficient to see the effort ruled out.

It proved a crucial decision as, despite having barely ventured into the Boro box for the whole of the second half, Hull grabbed a shock winner in stoppage time.

The Boro defence failed to deal with a routine long ball into the box from the left-hand side, enabling de Wijs to win a headed knock-down. Wilks, whose loan from fellow Championship side Barnsley was only turned into a permanent transfer earlier this week, could hardly believe the amount of space he had been afforded, and gleefully stabbed home.

Boro’s players slumped to their knees, a stance that was repeated at the final whistle. Their opponents, on the other hand, could barely believe their winless run had come to an end. Having leapfrogged Boro and climbed to 19th position in the table, they will hope it proves a pivotal moment in the relegation fight.

Warnock’s players have to regroup ahead of Sunday’s game with QPR. Having dropped to within a point of the bottom three, any wriggle room afforded by the Stoke win has already disappeared.