West Ham made the latest upward move in the seesaw relegation battle with a nervy 1-0 Premier League win over basement side Southampton.
After results on Saturday conspired to leave the Hammers second from bottom, Nayef Aguerd’s first-half header rocketed them to the heady heights of 14th.
‘Must-win’ games have been a regular occurrence for under-pressure manager David Moyes this season, but just as they had done against Everton and Nottingham Forest recently, his team pulled out a victory when they needed it most.
With Leicester the latest club to swing the axe – the news of Brendan Rodgers’ departure filtered through during this match – only Moyes and Steve Cooper at Forest of the bottom nine sides have kept their jobs this season.
West Ham’s latest win was far from pretty, but after an opening 25 minutes bordering on the torturous, and with home fans voicing their frustration at a lack of attacking intent, the hosts took the lead.
Jarrod Bowen was clattered by Duje Caleta-Car just inside the Southampton half and Thilo Kehrer swung the resulting free-kick into a crowded penalty area.
Morocco defender Aguerd steered a beautifully-controlled header into the net and, after an agonising three-minute VAR review for offside, the goal was given.
It was a first goal for the club for Aguerd – who missed the first half of the season through injury – and it lifted the mood in the London Stadium instantly.
Lukasz Fabianski, back in the West Ham goal after a fractured cheekbone, kept Southampton at bay when he palmed away Romain Perraud’s deflected shot.
West Ham were inches away from going in two goals up at half-time when Bowen’s curler from the edge of the box clipped the crossbar.
Southampton battled manfully after the break, with Kamaldeen Sulemana firing wide and Romeo Lavia testing Fabianski with a low drive.
For the Hammers, Kurt Zouma headed over the top, Bowen’s close-range prod was held by Gavin Bazuna and Lucas Paqueta fired off target at the far post.
Saints almost snatched a point five minutes from time when substitute Paul Onuachu nodded James Ward-Prowse’s cross against the crossbar.
But the south-coast side have only earned 11 points in 15 games since Ralph Hasenhuttl was sacked in November and their third coach of the season, Ruben Selles, faces an increasingly-difficult task to keep them afloat.
The Hammers are breathing a little easier, albeit only two points above the drop zone, but they can put further daylight between themselves and the bottom three at home to Newcastle on Wednesday.