With delicious irony, it was the kind of question that could only be posed at a club sponsored by a company that manufacturers satellite navigation aids. Just how did Matthew Bates so spectacularly lose his bearings in the tight confines of a crowded penalty area?

Not, in contrast to most of the past six months, that it was at the heart of an inquest into Middlesbrough's latest defeat, more an effort to discover how the makeshift midfielder had popped up six yards out at Tony McMahon's corner to poke home his first goal in 49 career appearances, restoring a lead the hosts were not to relinquish for a second time.

"Matthew wasn't where he should have been but that doesn't surprise me about any of my players," Gareth Southgate, the Middlesbrough manager, conceded.

"We spoke in the week about him being in position on the edge of the box and as the corner went in I said, 'He's not where he should be,' but he scored and I don't mind players taking responsibility like that."

In defence of his dodgy personal sat-nav, Bates said: "Our coach, Steve Agnew, shouted for me to go up for the corner, so I did as I was told. It was a great ball in and I just stuck my left foot out and it went in, but it was a bit lucky. I last scored playing for the youth team in 2005 so I've got a long wait for the next one."

Victory, only Middlesbrough's second in 20 attempts in the Premier League, rekindles hopes of avoiding relegation while also dragging Hull further into the mire.

"It's given us a lifeline," insisted Bates, who restored Middlesbrough's lead after Manucho's clinical header had cancelled out Tuncay Sanli's early opener. The 22-year-old added: "A lot of people had written us off but it's a massive three points and I still don't think we're going to go down."

Marlon King, who left Hull in acrimonious circumstances after a falling-out with the manager Phil Brown in January, rounded off the win in the last minute. That the on-loan forward asked for his bottle of champagne as the sponsors' man-of-the-match be redirected to the City manager before the visitors' coach headed south was no peace offering, more a timely reminder of the 28-year-old's prowess in front of goal.

A run of one win in 16 Premier League games leaves Hull four points clear of the bottom three with their top-flight future very much in doubt ahead of their return to the North-east in Saturday's crucial visit to Sunderland.

"It's not a time for losing your rag but a time to remain cool and calm under pressure," Brown said. "The knee-jerk reaction would be to kick off in the dressing room for the way we played but there's no need for that. It's about getting your nose in front in these tight situations and holding ourselves together, but this is the first time I've noticed nerves."

Goals: Tuncay (3) 1-0; Manucho (9) 1-1; Bates (29) 2-1; King (90) 3-1.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2) Jones; McMahon, Wheater, Huth, Taylor; Aliadière (Emnes, 90), Tuncay, Bates, Downing; King, Alves (Johnson, 77). Substitutes not used: Turnbull (gk), Hoyte, Riggott, Emnes, Shawky, Walker.

Hull City (4-5-1) Duke; Ricketts, Turner, Zayatte, Dawson; Mendy (Marney, 46), Ashbee, Geovanni, Barmby (Folan, 62), Fagan (Boateng, 72); Manucho. Substitutes not used: Myhill, Halmosi, Kilbane, Featherstone.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Booked: Middlesbrough Bates, Taylor Hull City Ashbee, Ricketts.

Man of the match: Tuncay.

Attendance: 32,255.