Super-sub Zavon Hines scored a stoppage-time winner to give West Ham a 2-1 win over ten-man Aston Villa that lifted Gianfranco Zola’s side out of the relegation zone.
An injury to Carlton Cole resulted in Hines being thrown into the fray before half-time and the homegrown striker had a major impact on a match that Villa dominated for long periods.
Having won the penalty that enabled Mark Noble to give West Ham the lead, Hines popped up at the death to snatch three precious points after Ashley Young had equalised for the visitors.
West Ham had Scott Parker back in action while Villa were missing the suspended Carlos Cuellar and the injured James Milner.
But the home side were forced into a reshuffle after only five minutes, when Herita Ilunga made way for Jonathan Spector.
Parker quickly made his presence felt by testing Brad Friedel with a drive from long range and the American goalkeeper needed two attempts to save an effort from Noble as West Ham started brightly.
Villa, looking for a win that would have lifted them into the top four, soon asserted themselves however and England goalkeeper Robert Green had to be alert to keep out a John Carew header, a superb volley from Stiliyan Petrov and an angled strike from Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Villa were, by this stage, completely dominant. But it was the Hammers who went into the interval in front after Habib Beye pulled down Hines as he broke into the area.
Beye was booked and Noble sent the spot-kick into the roof of the net.
Former Hammers skipper Nigel Reo-Coker entered the fray as a half-time substitute for Emile Heskey and was given a predictably hostile reception.
But the home fans were soon directing their ire at referee Steve Bennett after he awarded Villa a penalty for what he saw as a foul by Manuel Da Costa on James Collins.
West Ham’s defenders protested furiously but it was Green who ensured the debatable decision did no harm by diving low to his left to keep out Young’s spot kick.
Young only needed two minutes to atone for the miss however. Collecting the ball just inside the West Ham half, he made rapid progress down the left flank before cutting inside to curl a superb 25-yard strike over Green and into the net.
Villa looked the more likely winners at that stage but West Ham responded to the setback in fine style and the impressive Hines twice went close before a foul on Spector resulted in Beye being sent off with six minutes left.
Green had to produce another fine save to touch a Young effort round the post but West Ham made their numerical advantage count in injury time, when Parker provided the pass that enabled Hines to claim the winner.
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