Michail Antonio’s third goal in six games helped West Ham to a 1-0 victory over relegation-threatened Sunderland as the Hammers’ climbed above Manchester United into fifth place in the Premier League.
Antonio struck after 30 minutes to leave Sam Allardyce empty-handed on his return to Upton Park and the Black Cats firmly stuck in the Premier League relegation zone.
Yet the former Hammers boss will be wondering how his side did not take something from the game after Jermain Defoe and Jack Rodwell missed glorious chances after the break.
The build-up to the game centred around Allardyce, whose relationship with the West Ham supporters was strained to say the least during his four years in charge.
He may have anticipated a hot reception yet nothing more sinister than a polite smattering of applause greeted the 61-year-old as he took his seat in the opposition dug-out.
The opening 20 minutes of the match itself was also perhaps a little too cordial, with neither side mustering an attempt at goal.
But the game woke up when Manuel Lanzini tip-toed across the 18-yard line and teed up home skipper Mark Noble, whose fierce drive from the edge of the area was tipped onto the crossbar by Vito Mannone.
At the other end, Hammers keeper Adrian’s attempts at ball juggling almost backfired as he was charged down by Wahbi Khazri, but luckily for the Spaniard the ball spun to safety.
Moments later Khazri whipped in a swerving, dipping free-kick which clipped the top of Adrian’s goal.
The winner arrived after half an hour with a piece of Sunderland defending which would have left Allardyce choking on his chewing gum.
Sam Byram’s pass down the right wing looked harmless until Patrick van Aanholt allowed Antonio to gather the ball and turn back inside.
The winger then strolled into the penalty area unchallenged before rifling his shot across Mannone into the far corner.
Antonio was denied a second by Mannone before the interval, but it was Sunderland who would regret missed opportunities in the second half.
Former Hammers striker Defoe should have equalised in the 50th minute after running onto Lee Cattermole’s lofted pass, but he snatched at his shot and pulled it wide.
Defoe then got free in the area only to curl his shot off target, before substitute Rodwell came up with the miss of the match.
DeAndre Yedlin got free down the right and cut the ball back for the midfielder who only had to guide it into the net from eight yards, but instead he hit it straight at Adrian.
West Ham might have added to their lead after Byram headed across goal but substitute Andy Carroll’s shot came crashing back off the crossbar.
Great win today – 5th in the table, lovely start to the weekend.
— Lady Brady (@karren_brady) February 27, 2016
Michail Antonio has scored in each of his last three games at Upton Park (all comps).
All nine of Antonio’s goals this season have been scored in home games (four for Nottingham Forest, five for West Ham).
Vito Mannone has conceded in all ten of his appearances this season in all competitions (18 goals).
Mannone’s last clean sheet in the Premier League was in September 2014 – he has gone 13 games without one.
The woodwork was hit three times during the game, the joint-most in a Premier League game this season.
West Ham are unbeaten in their last 11 Premier League games at the Boleyn Ground (W6 D5).
The Hammers have made their best start to a Premier League season after 27 games, earning 43 points this season, one more than they had in 2005/06 (42).
West Ham have conceded just four goals in their last eight home games (all competitions), keeping five clean sheets in that spell.
The Hammers have a goal difference of +10, they have not ended a top-flight season with a positive goal difference sinec 1985-86 (23 seasons without one).