For Alan Pardew, it was the Best of times. For Avram Grant, it was the worst. Four years and a month since Pardew's services were deemed surplus to requirements at Upton Park, Newcastle's newish manager enjoyed a liberal slice of vengeance at the expense of his one-time employers. It was served up, on a chilly Tyneside night, courtesy of three goals from his third-choice centre-forward.
Leon Best has been hampered by injury since his £1m move from Coventry 12 months ago but after six fruitless starts last season and a substitute appearance at Wigan this season, the Republic of Ireland international shattered his scoring duck for the Magpies with a hat-trick after being picked by Pardew as a stand-in for the incapacitated Andy Carroll's hamstrung stand-in, Shola Ameobi.
There were also goals from Kevin Nolan and Peter Lovenkrands as the West Ham revival bubble was unceremoniously pricked. After their festive-time run of four matches without defeat, the Hammers now find themselves back at the bottom of the league.
Grant cut a disconsolate figure as he watched the capitulation from pitch-side – minus his lucky claret and blue scarf. "I forgot to bring it," the West Ham manager explained afterwards. "But it was not because of this that we lost. It's difficult to explain it. It was a bad day at the office."
West Ham were woeful from the start. Best might have scored two goals in the opening four minutes had he made the most of silver-platter service from the right wing by Joey Barton, who produced another display of England class. Scott Parker tested Steve Harper with a swerving drive but it was virtually one-way traffic all night.
The breakthrough came in the 18th minute, Best playing the ball to Lovenkrands on the right before racing into the box and beating Rob Green with a left-foot finish from six yards.
The second goal, six minutes before half-time, was a subtle variation on the Barton free-kick theme. With the West Ham defence expecting the kind of hoisted effort from which Carroll (whom Pardew insisted afterwards would not be leaving in the transfer window) has greatly prospered this season, the sometime England midfielder rolled a low pass to Lovenkrands on the left and the Dane pulled the ball across the goalmouth for Best to bury another first-time shot.
That was bad enough for the visitors but the real Hammer blow came in the final minute of the first half. A cross from the left by Jonas Gutierrez was diverted to Nolan and the captain side-footed the ball home from 15 yards.
On the hour Barton and Nolan combined to tee up Best for his hat-trick. Four minutes later came the final insult for Grant's shambolic side, Barton despatching a right-wing cross and Lovenkrands turning the ball home at the near post.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper; Simpson, Taylor (Williamson, h-t), Coloccini, Enrique; Barton, Nolan, Tiote, Gutierrez (Ferguson, 66); Lovenkrands, Best (Ranger, 64). Substitutes not used Krul (gk), Perch, Guthrie, Routledge.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Ben Haim, Tomkins, Upson, Gabbidon; Sears, Parker, Kovac (Obinna, h-t), Noble (Hines, 70), Cole; Piquionne (Behrami, h-t). Substitutes not used Boffin (gk), Reid, Spector, Barrera.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).
Match rating 8/10.
Man of the match Best.