Junior Stanislas and James Tomkins both scored their first goals for West Ham United as the Hammers swept aside Sunderland at the Boleyn Ground to rise to seventh in the Premier League table.
Stanislas opened the scoring with a simple tap-in just before half-time before Tomkins - who celebrated his 20th birthday last Sunday - added a second by powering home a header seven minutes after the restart. The pair became the fifth and sixth Academy graduates to net for the Hammers this season, following Mark Noble, Jack Collison, Kyel Reid and Zavon Hines.
Gianfranco Zola made two changes to the starting lineup from the 1-1 draw with Blackburn Rovers. Stanislas came into midfield for his full first-team debut and Matthew Upson returned at centre-half. The two players to miss out were the two central midfielders from Ewood Park. Scott Parker had not quite recovered from the groin strain while Radoslav Kovac injured his thigh in the week. Captain Lucas Neill moved into a defensive midfield role, with Jonathan Spector at right-back.
The home side started brightly and from the first of two corners in the opening two minutes, Tomkins headed Mark Noble's delicious delivery inches wide. Grant Leadbitter registered Sunderland's first effort by flashing a shot just wide. Seconds later, he came even closer when he exchanged passes with Djibril Cisse before stinging the hands of Robert Green just inside the penalty area.
The opening half ebbed and flowed and after several half-chances for both sides - and a booking for Luis Boa Morte for a late challenge - proceedings sprang to life in the final few minutes of the period.
First, Noble brought down Tal Ben Haim right on the edge of the area, but luckily Kieron Richardson's centre evaded everyone. Green then tipped a 25-yard Cisse effort around the post before the action switched to the other end of the pitch with dramatic results.
Just two minutes before the break, Stanislas marked his debut in the most perfect of ways. David Di Michele and Diego Tristan combined to find Boa Morte, who eluded a challenge and drove into the Sunderland penalty area. The Portuguese winger took a touch, looked up and picked out the 19-year-old perfectly and he duly slotted in to cue wild celebrations.
The Hammers were not finished yet, though, as a Di Michele shot was deflected wide and then, seconds later, good work on the right from Noble saw his cross headed over by Phil Bardsley just as Tristan was poised to finish. The half-time whistle sounded with the Hammers on a high.
Sunderland sought to seize the initiative after the break, with Bardsley skipping past Noble's sliding challenge before forcing Green into a full-stretch save with a rasping drive.
Having survived the visitors' early pressure, the hosts doubled their advantage through another maiden strike. This time it was Tomkins who broke his duck in a claret and blue shirt. Di Michele fed Tristan and his shot was tipped behind by Craig Gordon. However, the Scottish international could do nothing seconds later as the England Under-20 defender rose highest to power Noble's corner into the bottom corner of the net from eight yards. It was his first goal since scoring twice for England's Under-19 side in March 2008.
On the hour-mark, Ben Haim handled 30 yards from goal on the right-hand side. Noble swung the set-piece in and Upson forced a spectacular save from Gordon. The Sunderland No1 was called into action again shortly after as Tomkins looked to double his personal tally with a near carbon copy of his first. This time, however, Gordon was able to at least palm the ball to safety.
The only downside on an otherwise near-perfect afternoon came when Spector was stretchered off after landing heavily after jumping for a high ball with Ben Haim and landing heavily. The American received six minutes of treatment before being helped from the pitch. His exit forced yet another reshuffle for Zola, who brought on James Collins and switched Tomkins to right-back.
The changes made no difference to the final scoreline, however, as Sunderland failed to find a way past England man Green. Richardson and substitute Carlos Edwards both tested the goalkeeper and, even when he was beaten, substitute Collins was on the line to clear Leadbitter's goalbound shot to safety.
With a minute left on the clock Tristan jinked inside from the left touchline before curling a delicious chip over Gordon from 25 yards, only for the ball to land on top of the net rather than in it.
Stanislas earned a hearty ovation from the vast majority of the 34,761 inside the Boleyn Ground as he was replaced late on by Walter Lopez. It was an ovation the Kidbroke-born winger had thoroughly earned.
The Hammers survived the eight minutes of added time relatively comfortably, but Herita Ilunga was booked for a late challenge on Cisse to earn his third yellow card of the season. It did not matter, however, as Zola's men secured a victory that strengthens their claims for a place in next season's UEFA Europa League ahead of the trip to Tottenham Hotspur.