Fredi Kanoute scored both goals in a thoroughly deserved 2-0 victory over Southampton who, in failing to gain a club record fifth away win, were restricted to only half-chances by a reinforced Hammers defence that has still to concede a goal in three Premiership matches at Upton Park.
It was a massive test for the players in claret and blue who must have sensed the tension and anxiety in the air. The home crowd was in no mood for tolerance after those awful 5-0 and 7-1 batterings at Everton and Blackburn Rovers respectively.
No-one was under closer scrutiny than transfer-seeking Trevor Sinclair and beleaguered central defender Christian Dailly, who were both booed at the start.
But to be fair to both players, they showed the appetite for the battle and, like their team-mates, gave everything the manager and the supporters could have expected at a difficult time for the Club.
Showing two changes from Ewood Park - Laurent Courtoius and Nigel Winterburn replacing John Moncur and Raggy Soma - Hammers dominated for most of the first half. They put the Saints under pressure straight from the kick-off and should have taken the lead in the 14th minute.
Skipper Paolo Di Canio left keeper Paul Jones stranded on the edge of his penalty area when he nicked the ball past him. But instead of squaring to the better placed Kanoute, who was hovering on the six-yard box, the tormented Italian - perhaps taking it upon himself to put his team back on track - went alone and screwed his shot wide of the post, with Saints defenders scurrying back to guard the open goal.
West Ham created a string of good half-chances. Don Hutchison went close with a rising volley, Sinclair also volleyed just over the bar and Courtois twice fired wide of the near post and saw another shot saved. Courtois gave Jason Dodd a torrid time on the left flank and, with more clinical finishing, could have netted a first-half hat-trick.
The long-overdue breakthrough came seven minutes into the second half, when Di Canio received Winterburn's quickly taken free-kick on the left and returned a pass to the overlapping veteran. Winterburn's high, hanging cross dropped invitingly to the head of Kanoute, who couldn't miss from four yards out.
The importance of the moment was encapsulated on the faces of the joyous Hammers players and their fans, who celebrated wildly in the Bobby Moore Stand behind that goal.
Although Marian Pahars gave West Ham a rare scare when he fired wide from James Beattie's knock down, Kanoute settled the nerves by scoring his and Hammers' second with 10 minutes remaining. Sinclair, who turned the early jeers to cheers with a wholehearted effort on the right, played a neat one-two with Di Canio in the corner. The ball broke loose to Di Canio whose chip struck the crossbar before rebounding kindly to Kanoute, who nodded home from eight yards.
It was no more than the revitalised Irons deserved. Everyone played their part in a convincing victory, none more so than Frenchman Courtois, who justified his recall on the left flank and left the field to a standing ovation when replaced by Moncur with five minutes to go.
This nervy game may have been widely billed as a six-pointer but West Ham will be relieved to claim the three points that lift them four places up the table - leapfrogging Southampton, Derby County, Ipswich Town and Fulham - into 15th place.
*Click on the Audio Reaction logo at the top right hand side of the page to hear Assistant Manager Paul Goddard's reaction.
7 - Dailly's long pass finds Courtois on the left and the Frenchman's first time cross is met by his fellow countryman Kanoute, whose snap-shot is blocked by Jones.
10 - Delap's throw finds Pahars in acres of space on the right, but the Latvian's cross is gathered by Hislop.
12 - Kanoute skips down the left and squares a shot pass to Courtois, whose left-footed shot is well saved by Jones at his near post.
13 - Sinclair's flick on catches the Southampton defence off guard as Kanoute runs back from an offside position and Di Canio rounds Jones but then fires wide of the target from an acute angle.
16 - Sinclair and Di Canio combine skillfully on the right but the move ends disappointingly as Sinclair volleys high over the bar.
25 - Courtois cushions a pass to Hutchison, whose volley from 25 yards out drops just over the bar.
29 - Draper booked for foul on Hutchison.
35 - Another long throw from Delap is met by El Khalej, whose header is comfortably saved by Hislop.
41 - Di Canio's intelligent free-kick finds Courtois in the area, but the midfielder shoots wide of the target.
44 - Kanoute's trickery on the right allows him some space to send over a deep left-footed cross, but Courtois is once again inaccurate with his volley.
Added time: 1 minute.
Half-time: West Ham United 0 Southampton 0.
47 - Sinclair's quick free-kick finds Di Canio, whose left-foot shot is well held by Jones.
48 - Delap heads Bridge's free-kick just wide of the upright.
50 - A good move down the right sees Hutchison feed Sinclair, who lays a short pass to Di Canio. The Italian cuts the ball across the six-yard box, but the danger is cleared by El Khalej.
51 - Challenged in the area by Repka, Pahars' claim for a penalty is waved away by referee Barry.
52 - GOAL! Winterburn plays a quick free-kick to Di Canio and then overlaps to collect the return before sending over an inch-perfect cross that Kanoute heads home from six yards out. West Ham United 1 Southampton 0.
63 - Lundekvam's low shot from 30 yards out flies well wide of the target.
65 - Di Canio shuffles on the box and then attempts a chip that is too weak to trouble Jones. From the keeper's clearance, Pahars collects and dribbles along the edge of the area before firing a left-foot shot just wide.
66 - Courtois beats Dodd to a loose ball and whips a low cross along the six-yard box that Kanoute is just inches away from reaching.
68 - Substitution for Southampton, Svensson replaces Davies.
71 - Pahars sends over a left-footed cross that Beattie controls and then fires well wide.
73 - Di Canio is fouled 25 yards out and then picks himself up to curl a fierce effort just over the bar.
76 - Substitute for Southampton, Ripley replaces Pahars.
81 - GOAL! Sinclair and Di Canio combine brilliantly down the right and Jones' block falls to the Italian 10 yards out. With the goal at his mercy, Di Canio somehow crashes his shot against the bar. However, Kanoute is on hand to nod the rebound into an empty net. West Ham United 2 Southampton 0.
85 - Substitution for West Ham, Moncur replaces Courtois.
Added time: 2 minutes.
Full-time: West Ham United 2 Southampton 0.