A predictably bracing meeting on the coast left two fully committed sides with a point each, although the reactions in both camps were markedly different.
For the West Ham manager Alan Pardew, who saw his side recover from a dazing first half that required them to bring on all three substitutes, this was "a great point", with the centre-half James Collins producing a second-half equaliser to Gary O'Neil's 17th-minute opener.
But for his counterpart, Harry Redknapp, once of Upton Park and until recently a Judas figure who turned his back on Fratton Park for local rivals Southampton, the outcome was far less satisfactory.
"We could have had two or three goals in the first half, so it's not a great point for us. The only time you get that at home is if you draw with a team like Manchester United or Chelsea. When you play at home you need three points."
That they failed was no reflection on their efforts. But this West Ham team have defied those who forecast they would struggle and they showed the depth of their character in a match that many West Ham teams of seasons past would have given up on.
A West Ham line-up already missing the telling talents of Yossi Benayoun and Teddy Sheringham was soon diminished still further after just 10 minutes when the midfielder Hayden Mullins had to leave the field because of illness and, just after the half-hour mark, another Hammer was making his way to the touchline - the full-back Tomas Repka, who had injured a hamstring. Repka's replacement, Danny Gabbidon, lasted just six minutes after the cut knee he had suffered at Blackburn reopened.
Redknapp had given the West Ham fans a wave of acknowledgement before the match, but his team were soon tearing into their opponents without a shred of sentiment, spurred on by their raucous fans.
After 17 minutes, the Pompey supporters had something to celebrate after Lomana LuaLua took advantage of a mistake by West Ham's left-back Paul Konchesky and rolled the ball invitingly for Laurent Robert to drive in a cross from the right. A sublime step-over from Dario Silva wrong-footed the West Ham defence, and O'Neil fired in.
West Ham were under the cosh, but they made it to the dressing-room with nothing worse than bumps and bruises and, as the second half wore on, they had the strength to impose their thoughtful passing game upon opponents whose energy was beginning to flag.
Marlon Harewood almost fashioned an equaliser by winning a header and then collecting the ball himself to send a shot crashing away off the inside of the post. Just before the hour, West Ham had the reward their increasing domination deserved when a free-kick from the left by the hyperactive Shaun Newton was headed down at the far post by Anton Ferdinand for his defensive partner, James Collins, to drive home a shot on the turn.
By the time the final whistle had blown, the scenario was the opposite of that which had pertained shortly before half-time, as Portsmouth, having seen Laurent Robert dismissed in the 80th minute for the second of two dangerously inept tackles on Konchesky, hung on for dear life.
"I'm getting the best I can out of what I got," Redknapp said. "That's all I can do." He is, not surprisingly, looking forward to a little wheeling and dealing during the January transfer window. "We have not got a well-balanced squad here, and we're short in a number of positions," he said. "We need four to five players for sure."
Goals: O'Neil (17) 1-0; Collins (56) 1-1.
Portsmouth (4-4-2): Ashdown; Primus (Priske, 62), O'Brien, Stefanovic, Griffin; Robert, O'Neil, Hughes, Taylor; Silva (Viafara, 85), LuaLua. Substitutes not used: Westerveld (gk), Caradas, Todorov.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Carroll; Repka (Gabbidon, 33; Dailly, 39), Ferdinand, Collins, Konchesky; Newton, Mullins (Fletcher, 10), Reo-Coker, Etherington; Zamora, Harewood. Substitutes not used: Hislop (gk), Bellion.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffs).
Booked: Portsmouth Taylor, Robert, Silva; West Ham United Reo-Coker.
Sent off: Portsmouth Robert (84).
Man of the match: Newton.
Attendance: 20,168.Reuse content