Substitute Nicky Barmby scored the winner as Hull leapt above Cardiff in the Championship following victory at the KC Stadium.
The 37-year-old applied the simplest of touches from Robbie Brady's cross only a minute after coming onto the field.
Matty Fryatt had found the target from from six yards to give the home side the lead on 39 minutes.
Cardiff drew level when league debutant Joe Ralls scored with a volley on 61 minutes before Barmby's winner.
Hull handed a league debut to Austrian winger Martin Pusic while Cardiff kept faith with the side which had started the win against Southampton in midweek.
Among the Cardiff substitutes was 17-year-old striker Ralls, who had only signed his first professional contract with the club 48 hours earlier.
Only two points separated the sides in the Championship table prior to the match with Cardiff sixth and Hull one place behind them in seventh.
The visitors forced the game's first corner after only 40 seconds, but it was Hull who had the early chances to take the lead.
On loan Manchester United winger Robbie Brady forced goalkeeper David Marshall into a save with a thumping 25-yard free-kick before Corry Evans volleyed just over the bar.
Cardiff's injury woes continued when Kenny Miller was forced off with an injury after nine minutes with Ralls coming on to make his Championship debut.
Without Miller, the Bluebirds looking lightweight up front and although Filip Kiss and Peter Whittingham had efforts they had to wait until the 30th minute for their first real effort on goal when Anthony Gerrard headed wide from Whittingham's corner.
Hull were taking control of the game and Waghorn went close with a header following Liam Rosenior's cross before they went ahead six minutes before half-time.
Pusic played the ball into the penalty area from the left and Fryatt wriggled clear of his marker to squeeze a low shot between Marshall and the inside post for his second goal of the season.
Having gone ahead, Hull were again on the attack two minutes later with Waghorn fending off Darcy Blake and Kevin McNaughton before firing over the crossbar.
Slovenian midfielder Robert Koren flashed a 25-yard volley wide after the break and Fryatt saw his shot from inside the area well saved by Marshall.
But against the run of play Cardiff were back in the game on 62 minutes and it was debutant Ralls who scored with a spectacular strike.
Kevin McNaughton found Ralls with a pass from his own half and the youngster carried the ball into space towards the edge of the area before unleashing an unstoppable shot.
Within a minute Brady went close to restoring Hull's lead with Cardiff's Whittingham also trying his luck from long range.
Cardiff thought they had been awarded a penalty only for the referee to deem Filip Kiss had strayed into an offside position.
The home side made a change on 70 minutes with Barmby replacing Pusic, and the former England striker made an immediate impact.
A minute later, from Brady's cross from the right, Barmby despatched a left-footed finish into the bottom corner to score what would prove to be the winner.
Despite Cardiff's valiant efforts they could not avoid their second Championship defeat of the season as Hull extended their unbeaten run to six matches.
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Live Text Commentary
Full Time The final whistle goes and the game is over.90:00 +4:18
Corner taken right-footed by Don Cowie, clearance by Aaron Mclean.90:00 +3:58
Peter Whittingham takes a shot. Clearance made by Jack Hobbs.90:00 +3:01 Substitution
Substitution Peter Gulacsi on for Adriano Basso.90:00 +2:03
Nick Barmby concedes a free kick for a foul on Don Cowie. David Marshall restarts play with the free kick.89:28
Don Cowie restarts play with the free kick.89:28 Booking
Booking Robert Koren shown a yellow card.89:22
Robert Koren gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Joe Mason.86:41
Unfair challenge on James Chester by Peter Whittingham results in a free kick. Indirect free kick taken by Adriano Basso.83:51 Substitution
Substitution Ben Turner comes on in place of Filip Kiss.82:23
Robbie Brady takes the inswinging corner, Headed effort from close range by Aaron Mclean goes wide left of the goal.80:41
Direct effort from the free kick comes in from Peter Whittingham, save by Adriano Basso.80:41 Booking
Booking Jack Hobbs is given a yellow card.80:37
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Joe Mason by Jack Hobbs.79:03 Substitution
Substitution Aaron Mclean is brought on as a substitute for Martyn Waghorn.77:27
The ball is sent over by Martyn Waghorn.77:13
Aron Gunnarsson crosses the ball.74:18
The assistant referee signals for offside against Joe Mason. Direct free kick taken by Adriano Basso.73:21
Peter Whittingham sends in a cross, Header by Don Cowie from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the target.71:52
Corry Evans concedes a free kick for a foul on Aron Gunnarsson. David Marshall takes the indirect free kick.
The assist for the goal came from Robbie Brady.70:26 Goal scored
Goal! - Nick Barmby - Hull 2 - 1 Cardiff Nick Barmby finds the net with a goal from close in low into the middle of the goal. Hull 2-1 Cardiff.70:10
Free kick awarded for a foul by Kevin McNaughton on Robert Koren. Nick Barmby takes the indirect free kick.69:16 Substitution
Substitution Nick Barmby is brought on as a substitute for Martin Pusic.67:48
Joe Mason takes a shot. Save by Adriano Basso.66:23
The ball is swung over by Aron Gunnarsson, clearance made by Liam Rosenior.65:44
The assistant referee signals for offside against Joe Mason. Adriano Basso restarts play with the free kick.64:43
Don Cowie takes the inswinging corner, clearance by Martyn Waghorn.64:28
Peter Whittingham takes a shot. Jack Hobbs gets a block in.64:02
Kevin McNaughton fouled by Martin Pusic, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Kevin McNaughton.63:15
Robbie Brady produces a left-footed shot from just outside the box that goes wide left of the goal.62:31
Free kick awarded for a foul by Filip Kiss on Corry Evans. Free kick taken by Liam Rosenior.61:29
Assist by Kevin McNaughton.61:29 Goal scored
Goal! - Joe Ralls - Hull 1 - 1 Cardiff A goal is scored by Joe Ralls from just outside the area to the top right corner of the goal. Hull 1-1 Cardiff.60:27
Centre by Martin Pusic, clearance by Mark Hudson.60:01
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Robbie Brady, Filip Kiss manages to make a clearance.59:47
Robert Koren takes a shot. Save by David Marshall.59:05
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Corry Evans by Filip Kiss. Indirect free kick taken by James Chester.58:34
The ball is sent over by Robbie Brady, Mark Hudson manages to make a clearance.58:21
Matt Fryatt takes a shot. David Marshall makes a save.55:07
Shot from just outside the area by Robert Koren goes over the bar.54:00
The ball is sent over by Peter Whittingham, save by Adriano Basso.52:33
Shot by Robert Koren from outside the box goes high over the target.52:28
Liam Rosenior delivers the ball, Mark Hudson manages to make a clearance.49:57
Foul by Anthony Gerrard on Martyn Waghorn, free kick awarded. The free kick is delivered left-footed by Robbie Brady from right wing.49:13
The ball is crossed by Robbie Brady, Kevin McNaughton makes a clearance.48:45
Aron Gunnarsson fouled by Martin Pusic, the ref awards a free kick. Peter Whittingham restarts play with the free kick.46:15
The offside flag is raised against Joe Mason. James Chester takes the free kick.45:01
The referee starts the second half.45:00 +2:20 Half time
Half Time The ref blows to signal half-time.45:00 +1:47
Headed effort from deep inside the penalty area by Mark Hudson misses to the right of the target.45:00 +1:10
Unfair challenge on Peter Whittingham by Corry Evans results in a free kick. David Marshall restarts play with the free kick.43:10
Corry Evans crosses the ball, Martin Pusic has a headed effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the left of the target.40:34
Joe Mason gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Jack Hobbs. Free kick taken by Adriano Basso.40:02
Shot on goal by Martyn Waghorn from just inside the area clears the crossbar.39:19
Matt Fryatt handles the ball and concedes a free kick. Kevin McNaughton takes the free kick.38:08
Assist on the goal came from Martin Pusic.38:08 Goal scored
Goal! - Matt Fryatt - Hull 1 - 0 Cardiff Matt Fryatt fires in a goal from inside the six-yard box to the bottom left corner of the goal. Hull 1-0 Cardiff.36:37
Centre by Martyn Waghorn, save by David Marshall.35:59
The ball is swung over by Darcy Blake, clearance made by Jack Hobbs.34:52
The ball is sent over by Liam Rosenior, Headed effort from inside the area by Martyn Waghorn misses to the left of the target.34:46
A cross is delivered by Robbie Brady, Anthony Gerrard makes a clearance.34:16
Kevin McNaughton fouled by Joe Dudgeon, the ref awards a free kick. David Marshall takes the indirect free kick.30:58
Corner taken by Robert Koren from the left by-line played to the near post, Anthony Gerrard manages to make a clearance.30:39
The ball is delivered by Peter Whittingham, save by Adriano Basso.29:03
Inswinging corner taken by Peter Whittingham, Header by Anthony Gerrard from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the target.28:25
The ball is swung over by Don Cowie, Jack Hobbs makes a clearance.27:23
The ball is delivered by Peter Whittingham, save made by Adriano Basso.24:47
Robbie Brady sends in a cross.24:26
Centre by Robbie Brady, Kevin McNaughton makes a clearance.24:10
The ball is delivered by Jack Hobbs, Aron Gunnarsson makes a clearance.23:22
Inswinging corner taken by Robbie Brady.23:15
The ball is swung over by Liam Rosenior, blocked by Joe Ralls.22:13
The assistant referee signals for offside against Joe Mason. Adriano Basso takes the direct free kick.21:20
Shot from a long way out by Filip Kiss goes wide of the left-hand post.21:02
Short corner worked by Peter Whittingham, clearance by Jack Hobbs.16:53
Short corner taken by Don Cowie.16:28
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Peter Whittingham, clearance made by Adriano Basso.16:18
Centre by Joe Mason, blocked by Robert Koren.15:15
Corner taken right-footed by Robert Koren from the left by-line, Shot from just outside the box by Corry Evans goes over the crossbar.14:54
Robbie Brady takes a shot. Save made by David Marshall.12:20
Direct effort from the free kick comes in from Peter Whittingham, save by Adriano Basso.12:20 Booking
Booking Martin Pusic is given a yellow card.12:08
Foul by Martin Pusic on Kevin McNaughton, free kick awarded.10:59
Liam Rosenior delivers the ball, Martyn Waghorn takes a shot. Comfortable save by David Marshall.10:09
The referee blows for offside against Joe Mason. Direct free kick taken by Adriano Basso.9:23 Substitution
Substitution Joe Ralls on for Kenny Miller.9:23
Martyn Waghorn is flagged offside by the assistant referee. David Marshall takes the free kick.5:24
Peter Whittingham sends in a cross, James Chester makes a clearance.2:14
The assistant referee flags for offside against Kenny Miller. Jack Hobbs takes the direct free kick.0:58
The ball is crossed by Peter Whittingham.0:38
Peter Whittingham takes a inswinging corner from the right by-line played to the near post, clearance by Corry Evans.0:00
The referee gets the game started.
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