HAMMERS and Millwall have drawn 1-1 at Upton Park, Marlon Harewood's 35th minute goal earning a share of the points after Barry Hayles had given the Lions an early lead.
Passion and commitment were etched into the West Ham performance, but a stubborn rearguard action by Millwall in the second-half denied Alan Pardew's men all three points.
Pards made his first change to the Hammers line-up in four games, Matty Etherington earning a place on the left of midfield after his scintillating second-half display against Coventry, Hayden Mullins making way.
That change aside, Pards went with the same 16 players that won 3-0 against the Sky Blues last weekend. Elliott Ward lined-up against brother Darren in just his seventh West Ham appearance, while Mark Noble moved into central-midfield to partner Nigel Reo-Coker.
Millwall player-manager Dennis Wise named himself amongst the substitutes, preferring Marvin Elliott in midfield.
The players were greeted by one of the best atmospheres of the season at Upton Park, and responded by breaking out of the blocks at a blistering pace.
It took all of 36 seconds for Nigel Reo-Coker to burst through the Millwall defence, his powerful run eventually smothered by Lions goalkeeper Andy Marshall.
Two minutes later Barry Hayles had Millwall's first chance. Allowed to turn by Anton Ferdinand the striker curled in a shot from the edge of the area that skipped narrowly wide of Jimmy Walker's post.
But, backed by a seemingly endless rendition of Bubbles, it was Hammers on the attack. On four minutes Etherington got away from Mark Phillips for the first time and delivered a cross to the near post that was met by Teddy Sheringham, but his glancing header crept just over the bar.
Yet on 12 minutes, a Millwall surprise attack caught the Hammers napping, and from nowhere Alan Pardew's men were 1-0 down. Muscat cut-out Reo-Coker's free-kick and Danny Dichio released Hayles, who rounded Walker and tucked the ball away from a tight angle.
Hammers looked to hit straight back, Ward heading over the bar from a corner routine as Alan Pardew's men rose to the challenge.
Marlon Harewood's powerful run took him around a Millwall defender, but his cross into the heart of the Millwall box was well cleared by Darren Ward.
There was nothing the Millwall defence could do to foil the big striker on 35 minutes though, as Harewood's strike brought West Ham level.
Teddy Sheringham's neat chest down into the path of Etherington was the catalyst of a flowing Hammers move. The cross was inch-perfect, leaving Harewood to sweep the ball past Marshall from close range and make it 1-1.
Upton Park responded with a crescendo of noise. But it was Jimmy Walker who had to be alert with the half drawing to close. It was Hayles bearing down on goal again, this time the Hammers goalkeeper winning the battle, racing from his line to pluck the ball off the striker's head.
An all-action 45 minutes ended with both teams still very much in this contest, the scores locked at 1-1.
Hammers began the second-half with the momentum in their favour,
and Nigel Reo-Coker should have done better when attacking Chris
On 59 minutes a sublime piece of skill from Harewood almost gave Hammers the lead. Shaun Newton floated the ball across the Millwall penalty area and with his back to goal Harewood executed a fantastic over-head kick that forced Marshall into a fine one-handed save.
Six minutes later Walker had to be alert, Jody Morris' deflected shot sending the Hammers goalkeeper scampering across his goal to palm away the shot.
But it was West Ham who were enjoying much of the attacking possession, Sheringham and Etherington combining to good affect, but the all-important second goal was alluding Alan Pardew's men.
Bobby Zamora was introduced for Shaun Newton with 10 minutes left, but still the breakthrough refused to come.
With two minutes left the Hammers substitute did carve out a good chance, taking Sheringham's cross on his chest at the back post, before drilling a volley that deflected narrowly over Marshall's goal.
In a game as fiercely competitive as this, it was something of a surprise that the first yellow card of the afternoon took all of 89 minutes to arrive, Dave Livermore catching the lively Zamora.
In stoppage time, Harewood broke away from the Millwall defence and crossed into the box, but after Sheringham and Zamora had exchanged timid passes, the England striker's eventual header looped safely into the arms of Marshall.
It was West Ham's final chance of the game, Hammers and Millwall sharing the points with a 1-1 draw, just as they did at Upton Park in this fixture last season.
This time, though, the result could have a fundamental affect on Hammers Play-off hopes.