West Ham United's winless run at the Reebok Stadium was extended to nine matches as Bolton Wanderers battled to a scarcely-deserved 2-1 Premier League victory on Saturday.
The Trotters scored twice in a little more than a minute early in the first half to consign the Hammers to just their second defeat in eleven matches in all competitions. Matthew Taylor, with an inch-perfect free-kick, and Kevin Davies, with a neat close-range finish, were Bolton's match-winners on a chilly February afternoon in the north west - consigning the visitors to their first away defeat since 29 October.
The visitors, who have now lost on seven of their nine trips to the Reebok in league and cup, hit back through a fine Scott Parker goal midway through the second half, but the home side held on to complete a Premier League double over Gianfranco Zola's side.
Visiting manager Zola made one enforced change to the side that drew 1-1 with Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fifth round a week previously, replacing suspended captain Lucas Neill with United States defender Jonathan Spector. It was the 23-year-old's first Premier League start since the Hammers' 1-0 defeat at Bolton on 12 April last year.
After a fairly nondescript opening, the home side took the lead in spectacular fashion on ten minutes. Jack Collison brought down January transfer window signing Mark Davies 25 yards from goal and Taylor did the rest, curling a magnificent free-kick into Robert Green's top left-hand corner. A minute later, things got even worse for the Hammers as Kevin Davies scored with an opportunist strike from Johan Elmander's mis-hit cross.
From then on, almost all of the attacking was done by Zola's men, who spent the remaining 79 minutes throwing everything at Bolton in a vain effort to extend their fine unbeaten run on their travels. First, however, they had to deal with a third setback in the space of four minutes as James Collins was forced off with an injury to his left hamstring. James Tomkins, appearing in the Premier League for the first time this season, was his replacement.
As Bolton's attacking threat subsided, West Ham went on the hunt for the goal they needed to force their way back into the match. Unfortunately, two gilt-edged chances would come and go before half-time.
First, on 36 minutes, Cole sent Mark Noble clear, but the England Under-21 man chose to square the ball to Collison instead of shooting and the chance was lost. Then, three minutes later, Noble put Di Michele through on goal, only for the Italian to send his shot well wide of the far post.
Earlier, the impressive Cole and Di Michele had both gone close, but the elusive goal would just not come. Meanwhile, Matthew Upson received his first booking of the season for a foul on Kevin Davies while a later booking for Noble would rule him out of Sunday week's visit of Manchester City after his fifth caution of the season.
Into the second half and West Ham continued to look the more likely team to score the game's third goal. Two minutes into the second period, it nearly arrived, only for Taylor to nod Cole's goalbound header out from under his own crossbar.
Taylor then forced Green into a smart low save with a hooked effort, but it was merely a momentary respite from what was rapidly becoming a barrage on Jussi Jaaskelainen's goal.
With 28 minutes to go, Zola sent on Savio for Collison in an attempt to inject some more pace into the Hammers' attacks and the move paid almost immediate dividends. Four minutes later, Parker drove through the midfield before finding Cole. The ball cannoned out to Spector on the right edge of the Bolton penalty area and when he crossed to the near-post, Parker was on hand to smartly divert the ball past the Finnish goalkeeper.
West Ham continued to throw bodies forward in search of an equaliser but a combination of bad luck, fine defending and good goalkeeping ensured the Trotters would hold out for the win. The closest Zola's men came was with 16 minutes remaining when Di Michele skipped around Jaaskelainen, only for Gary Cahill to slide and miraculously hack his shot off the goal-line.
There was still time for Jaaskelainen to grab hold of Cole's header from Savio's cross but, despite the introduction of Freddie Sears as a fourth forward, the Hammers were unable to find a way through to secure a deserved share of the spoils.
Zola and his players will be hoping for much better fortune when they head north again for the FA Cup fifth round replay at Middlesbrough on Wednesday evening.