A superb hat-trick goal two minutes from time by the irrepressible Jermain Defoe enabled West Ham to complete a remarkable Carling Cup comeback at Ninian Park last night.
Just as this scintillating tie seemed to be heading towards extra time, a slick passing move ended with the highly-rated striker beating the Cardiff goalkeeper, Martin Margetson, with a wonderful left-foot shot from the edge of the area for his seventh goal of the season.
After trailing 2-0 to a buoyant Cardiff side after 25 minutes, the Hammers bounced back from their first defeat in eight games at Gillingham on Saturday by regrouping to secure a just about deserved victory.
Cardiff's manager, Lennie Lawrence, rang the changes after their 5-3 defeat at Sheffield United on Saturday with Margetson replacing Neil Alexander in goal, Danny Gabbidon returning in the centre of defence after missing five games through injury at the expense of James Collins, and Jason Bowen slotting into midfield in place of the cup-tied Richard Langley.
West Ham, meanwhile, replaced Niclas Alexandersson with Anton Ferdinand on the right of midfield.
Cardiff dominated the opening 10 minutes but the first clear chance was created and then spurned by West Ham's Matthew Etherington, who shot well wide from 20 yards.
Bowen grew increasingly dangerous and it was no surprise when he set up Cardiff's opening goal with a mazy run down the right as he tormented Wayne Quinn in the 12th minute. His low cross was turned in by Robert Earnshaw from four yards for his 12th goal of the season.
Quinn almost made amends by crossing for Ferdinand to head wide midway through the half when two minutes later, Earnshaw struck again to show that he is not simply a close-range goal poacher. Kicking the ball up on Cardiff's left, he moved across the penalty area before curling a sumptuous shot into the far corner past the flailing David James.
Two minutes later, David Connolly tested Margetson but generally West Ham got no change from a resolute Cardiff defence until just before the break. After forcing Margetson to make two easy saves within seven minutes, Defoe finally beat the keeper when Tony Vidmar was adjudged to have brought down Connolly in the box. The striker smashed the spot-kick past Margetson to give the Hammers hope of a second half comeback.
West Ham carried on where they left off after the break and in the 64th minute benefited from another piece of good fortune. Defoe's right-foot shot from the edge of the box was cruelly deflected past Margetson by Gabbidon.
As the match wore on, West Ham continued to dominate and Margetson made three superb saves within six minutes. First, he gathered Matthew Etherington's 20-yard shot at the second attempt, then kept out a drive from Kevin Horlock before foiling the substitute Richard Garcia six minutes from time.
Cardiff City (4-4-2): Margetson; Weston, Vidmar, Gabbidon, Barker; Bowen (Campbell, 81), Boland, Kavanagh, Bonner; Thorne (Gordon, 74), Earnshaw. Substitutes not used: Alexander, Prior and Croft.
West Ham United (4-3-3): James; Repka, Pearce, Dailly, Quinn; Ferdinand, Horlock, Etherington; Defoe, Connolly, Mellor (Garcia, 81). Substitutes not used: Sofiane, Kilgallon, Noble, Bywater.
Referee: A D'Urso (Essex).Reuse content