A horrendous mistake by the England goalkeeper Robert Green helped nudge Bolton Wanderers out of the relegation places in a tense match at the Reebok.
Two struggling sides had just exchanged goals during a brief period of enterprising play midway through the second half when Green fielded a harmless deflected shot from Gary Cahill. He had it firmly in his grasp, but inexplicably spilled it at the feet of Ivan Klasnic, who easily scored his third goal in two games.
It was an appropriate way to decide a match which showed why both sides have been labouring in the bottom three, although Cahill's header from Ricardo Gardner's corner two minutes from time made Bolton sure of their first win in eight games.
"We did get a break, but I felt we deserved it," said Bolton's understandably relieved manager Gary Megson. "One team was trying to nick it and one team was trying to win it."
West Ham United's assistant manager, Steve Clarke, knew exactly where it had all gone wrong. "Robert unfortunately made a mistake and it wasn't something we could come back from," he said. "He will recover and the best thing he can do is go out against Chelsea [on Sunday] and have the game of his life."
Bolton had made the livelier start, their captain, Kevin Davies, having a shot deflected wide within the first 40 seconds. A mis-kick by James Tomkins then gave Davies another opportunity which he failed to exploit. The striker then produced a clever back-heel that could have fallen for Klasnic. A subdued West Ham did not register a threat until Scott Parker's pass put Kieron Dyer through in his first start for three months, but his finish was weak and straight at the goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Bolton's strikeforce were both in referee Andre Marriner's book before the mid-point in the half, Davies for an innocuous, if unnecessary, challenge on Green and Klasnic for dissent. Shortly after that, Dyer's latest comeback came to a premature end when he went off injured to be replaced by Junior Stanislas.
Bolton continued to look the more threatening of two misfiring sides and they thought they had a good shout for a penalty when Julien Faubert appeared to handle the ball. Their most fluent piece of play was shortly before half-time, when a square ball from the Korean winger, Lee Chung-Yong, and an intelligent stepover by Davies produced a shooting chance for Klasnic, which he hammered just over the bar.
In stoppage time, Lee found Matt Taylor on the far post, but he failed to react quick enough. The game continued in undistinguished fashion after the break, with Tamir Cohen having a decent chance to put Wanderers ahead and Zat Knight heading wide from the subsequent corner.
In a sudden, out-of-character burst of end-to-end football, Green saved from Cahill with his knees and the under-employed Jaaskelainen hurled himself to deny Parker.
After 64 minutes, the goal the Wanderers just about merited arrived. Lee played the ball across goal and Klasnic angled it back in his direction for the Korean to force home, although from a position that looked suspiciously offside.
The lead – and the prospect of Bolton's first clean sheet of the season – lasted just four minutes. Jack Collison got a flick to Parker's low ball into the box and Alessandro Diamanti pounced to drive it home.
West Ham were heading for an undeserved point, but then came Green's blunder, a costly error which left them second from bottom and facing a long winter.
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson; Lee, Muamba, Cohen, Taylor (Gardner, 76); Davies, Klasnic (Basham, 82). Substitutes not used: Al-Habsi (gk), Samuel, Elmander, Ricketts, Andrew O'Brien.
West Ham United (4-3-3): Green; Faubert, Gabbidon, Tomkins, Ilunga; Parker, Kovac, Collison (Da Costa, 86); Franco, Diamanti, Dyer (Stanislas, 21). Substitutes not used: Kurucz (gk), Spector, Da Costa, Nouble, Daprela, Payne.
Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies