Extraordinary, unbridled, raw scenes at Upton Park. And ugly ones too. As Marlon Harewood's 89th-minute winning goal smashed into the Arsenal net, the reaction of the West Ham manager, Alan Pardew, was jubilantly wild. Given the trials and tribulations, the pressure and ridiculous pitfalls of this season, that was understandable.
Except he went a little too close to Arsène Wenger for the Arsenal manager's liking. Wenger took fierce exception. He foolishly pushed Pardew away - and even pushed away the fourth official, Andy D'Urso. Furious words were exchanged and the anger boiled into bitter chaos. On the touchline, as the two managers grappled, Wenger mouthed the word "disgrace". It certainly was.
It was almost unbelievable. And it continued at the final whistle. Wenger refused to shake hands and then his players - Jens Lehmann, who also had to be pulled away, and Cesc Fabregas, who had water poured down his back by Hayden Mullins - crowded around Teddy Sheringham. It continued into the tunnel, with Thierry Henry also involved.
Afterwards Wenger refused to talk. He waited until all the Arsenal players had left the dressing-room and then boarded the team coach. Pardew tried to seek him out to "have a chat about things and sort it out" but that simply did not happen. Pardew added of the touchline scenes: "It was not right - it was not right for the image of the game." It was part of Pardew's attempt to dampen down the fire - but with a glint of relish, and relief, in his eye. Had he ever been involved with another manager like that before?
"Not one of his stature," Pardew said. "If I was over-zealous in my celebrations which I'm sure I was I apologise fully to Arsène Wenger," he added. "We've had a difficult old season here and maybe that came out. I was just celebrating the goal and don't begrudge me that. Arsène had a problem with that, probably rightly. But I've had a lot of frustration.
"He was angry about a couple of decisions which had gone against him and the way we approached the game. We were physical. We wanted to upset Arsenal and we wanted to win."
West Ham certainly did both. And, at last, fortune no longer appears to be hiding. They deserved their victory for endeavour and bravery - and for the tactics of Pardew, who shifted to a lone striker and nullified Fabregas with Nigel Reo-Coker. In defence Danny Gabbidon, especially after Anton Ferdinand had limped off with an Achilles problem, was immense. There was also the boon of a first clean sheet of the season while West Ham, always, pushed on for a goal.
But there was further controversy. In the first half Robin van Persie, who had a miserable afternoon, was struck on the head by a coin thrown from the main stand as he went to take a throw-in. A policeman picked up the object. "I hope we see the fan on the CCTV and never let him come back," Pardew said. West Ham will almost certainly face sanctions from the Football Association.
Arsenal will argue they were denied any luck. They claimed a penalty - and it certainly appeared that Jonathan Spector caught Alexander Hleb - but then replays showed there was the slightest of touches on the ball first. Then, in the build-up to Harewood's goal, the irrepressible Matthew Etherington challenged with Mathieu Flamini. Arsenal felt their midfielder was fouled but, again, it appeared debatable and play was waved on. Etherington shot down the left, crossed low and Harewood rushed in for the precious strike that lifts his side into 15th place and severely dented Arsenal's title hopes.
Harewood had, earlier, missed when put through by Sheringham - he drove straight at Lehmann - while Etherington's fierce cross-cum-shot had deflected off Gaël Clichy and spun narrowly wide as Bobby Zamora slid in. There was also a near post header misdirected by Yossi Benayoun.
But Arsenal, as in their midweek Champions' League tie against CSKA Moscow, were also hugely wasteful. Twice Henry teed up gilt-edged opportunities. First he headed Hleb's cross into Van Persie's path and although the volley was guided into the corner, it was superbly palmed away by Robert Green. Then Henry cushioned an instant pass to Tomas Rosicky, exposing a gap in the West Ham defence. The Czech midfielder took up the invitation and ran through - only to side-foot wide - before a vicious shot by Kolo Touré, from 30 yards, swerved a whisker away.
"Football has this great beauty of rewarding you when you least expect it," Pardew said. And he was right. Few neutrals will, indeed, begrudge this win. He has certainly had plenty to deal and there was another twist yesterday with the statement by Lord Coe, the London 2012 chairman, that West Ham will not be allowed to move to the Olympic Stadium.
The hope is that the possible takeover, a saga in itself, may be resolved by Wednesday. Pardew's dispute with Wenger will certainly take a good deal longer.
Goal: Harewood (89) 1-0.
West Ham United (4-1-4-1): Green; Spector, Gabbidon, Ferdinand (McCartney,
44), Konchesky; Mullins; Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Bowyer (Sheringham, 63), Etherington; Zamora (Harewood, 63). Substitutes not used: Carroll (gk), Tevez.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Lehmann; Hoyte (Flamini, 76), Gallas, Touré, Clichy; Fabregas, Gilberto; Hleb (Eboué, 71), Rosicky, Van Persie (Adebayor, 61); Henry. Substitutes not used: Almunia (gk), Senderos.
Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).
Booked: West Ham Spector, Benayoun, Harewood; Arsenal Clichy, Van Persie.
Man of the match: Gabbidon.
Attendance: 34,969.Reuse content