The goal, Paul Kitson's second of the game and his third in four matches since his pounds 2.3m transfer from Newcastle, hauled the Hammers out of the bottom three for the first time in two months. Kitson's sharpness and hunger after two years in the wilderness on Tyneside could yet keep his new club in the Premiership. How ironic that Newcastle could now do with him themselves.
West Ham will only survive, however, if they can maintain the passion of last night's second half. They had begun this fixture as if it was a meaningless end of season game. Chelsea, with half a team rested or injured and the others thinking of Wembley, could not believe their fortune.
They took advantage with a 24th-minute goal from Gianluca Vialli, the one Chelsea outfield player with something to prove. His goal followed a ghastly error by Ian Bishop, who gave the ball away to Gianfranco Zola at a time when his defenders had pushed up for a corner. Zola promptly gave Vialli an easy finish while Bishop, already unpopular with West Ham fans, was subjected to further booing.
West Ham did come close to an equaliser, with Dan Petrescu clearing Slaven Bilic's header off the line nine minutes later. But Chelsea continued to look the dominant side until the break.
The 15-minute interval proved crucial. Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager, pointed out to his team that "if you carry on playing like that I'll get the sack" and also made two significant changes. On came Danny Williamson, for the unfortunate Bishop, to add a midfield spark and Hugo Porfirio to introduce penetration.
Although Williamson was soon to depart with a recurrence of an ankle injury, the changes had already worked. On 53 minutes Williamson curled an exquisite ball to Porfirio on the left and he was brought down as he jinked past Frank Sinclair. Juilian Dicks rammed the penalty past Chelsea's debutante goalkeeper, Nick Colgan.
West Ham's second, after 68 minutes, was less of a surprise for Kitson, scoring after Iain Dowie had flicked on Porfirio's through pass. Dowie had earlier hit the bar when he should have scored and had also escaped punishment for a wild kick at Paul Hughes in his own area.
Chelsea now made a belated change of their own, bringing on Mark Hughes in attack and reverting to four at the back to handle a three-man forward line. They seemed to be rewarded when, with five minutes left, Hughes rose at the far post to head in Scott Minto's cross.
A few West Ham fans, their faith wavering, now left but those who stayed to the end went home ecstatic as Kitson steered in a Michael Hughes corner.
West Ham United (3-5-2): Miklosko; Potts, Bilic, Dicks; Breaker, Ferdinand (Porfirio, h-t), Bishop (Williamson, h-t, Lampard, 58), Moncur, Michael Hughes; Kitson, Dowie. Substitutes not used: Rowland, Sealey (gk).
Chelsea (3-5-2): Colgan; Sinclair, Clarke, Johnsen; Petrescu (Mark Hughes, 72), Burley, Wise, P Hughes, Minto; Vialli, Zola. Substitutes not used: Myers, Di Matteo, Morris, Grodas (gk).
Referee: K Burge (Mid Glamorgan).Reuse content