Newcastle v Hammers

It proved an afternoon of Tyneside torment for workmanlike West Ham, who came so close to finally securing that elusive, first away-day victory of the season at St. James's Park, only for another controversial decision to provide ultimate disappointment.

Goals by Carlton Cole and Marlon Harewood inside the opening 22 minutes seemed to have set the slick-looking Hammers on course for three precious points, before James Milner netted in controversial fashion in first-half stoppage time and Nolberto Solano equalised with a fortuitous spot-kick just after the break.

But despite surrendering that two-goal advantage and finding themselves still in the bottom three, Alan Curbishley's men can bring great heart and confidence back to London following an enthusiastic, exuberant and plucky performance, full of tempo and tenacity in healthy proportions.

Heading into this clash, only Bobby Zamora had managed to score away from Upton Park in the Premiership all season, but the last of those two goals had come 888 minutes ago, at Anfield back in late-August.

And following his dismissal as a substitute in the 3-3 draw against Fulham last week, Hammers' leading marksman was suspended, while Curbs was also without Carlos Tevez (calf), James Collins (groin) and Danny Gabbidon (ankle).

That meant a recall for Harewood to partner Cole in attack, while a new-look central defence saw the fit-again Anton Ferdinand return alongside new signing Calum Davenport, who was handed his second Hammers' debut following his return to Upton Park on Thursday.

Following their embarrassing FA Cup third round replay exit at the hands of Championship leaders Birmingham City on Wednesday night, Glenn Roeder made a trio of changes, too, as Alan O'Brien, Stephen Carr and Scott Parker replaced Antoine Sibierski, Matthew Pattison and the suspended Stephen Taylor.

That humiliating 1-5 thrashing - Newcastle's heaviest ever to lower division opposition  and their worst FA Cup home reverse since 1914 - left the former Hammers' boss desperately resorting to pre-match mind games by warning his old team to be 'careful' given his grounded Magpies would come out fighting.

But after stepping into the St James's Park ring, West Ham were soon inflicting yet more damage on the punch-drunk Geordies.

Inside the opening quarter-hour, Yossi Benayoun dispatched a couple of powerful rising efforts over Shay Given's crossbar, while Harewood and Nigel Quashie sent low shots thudding into Newcastle 'keeper's ribcage.

And on 18 minutes it was no surprise when the visitors finally landed a telling blow, as Benayoun's deep corner was nodded back across goal by the towering Davenport for Cole to lash home his third goal of the season from six yards, to the joy of the Hammers' fans nestled high in the stands amongst the 52,095 crowd.

Having finally tasted an away goal after a desolately barren 147-day spell, Hammers incredibly took just four minutes to find the Newcastle net once more, when George McCartney invited Harewood to race onto his perfectly weighted through-ball and, after escaping the attention of Peter Ramage, he drilled an unstoppable 10-yarder between Given and his right-hand post to take his tally to three for the season, too.

And Ramage's day got even worse when he was forced to retire with a pulled hamstring as he raced with the galloping Cole to prevent West Ham from extending their deserved lead yet further.

In reply, Obafemi Martins directed a weak header towards Carroll, before twisting and turning in the danger area and slashing high and wide. The dangerous Newcastle striker also accidentally split open Quashie's head with a stray arm, too, while O'Brien grazed the base of the left-hand post with a low 20-yarder.

With the bloodstained Quashie bravely back in action alongside the toiling Nigel Reo-Coker in the heart of the Hammers midfield, disciplined and determined West Ham looked to be cruising towards a comfortable two-goal, interval lead.

But in first-half stoppage time, Newcastle grabbed a lifeline in controversial circumstances when Solano fed the ball wide to the overlapping Milner, who took a step into the Hammers' area and let fly with a low angled shot that flashed through the legs of the clearly offside Parker into the far corner.

Standing in front of the unsighted Hammers' keeper on the six-yard line, the Newcastle skipper was at least a yard ahead of anyone else, and both the disgusted Carroll and Ferdinand were yellow-carded by referee Uriah Rennie for taking their justified protests too far.

Having seen their advantage halved in cruel fashion, West Ham endured more bad luck at the start of the second half, too, when Luis Boa Morte slipped onto the Tyneside turf as he attempted to block Paul Huntingdon's weak, 52nd-minute free-kick, only for the ball to hit him on the arm.

Taking full advantage of the gift, as the Hammers 'keeper dived in the opposite direction, Solano drilled the consequent spot-kick to the left of Carroll, to unravel all that earlier East End effort and level the scores.

Newcastle, having somehow bounced back off the ropes, then saw the turning Martins force Carroll into a brilliant, low parry, and after Davenport's powerful header was ruled out for a push on Huntingdon, Kieron Dyer then deflected Solano's shot onto the left post.

Midway through the half, Given was forced to retire with a groin strain and, in an effort to retain a foothold in the game and bolster his midfield, Curbs then sent on Matthew Etherington, who quickly rounded substitute 'keeper Steve Harper only to find the angle too tight.

That was to prove West Ham's last serious chance of getting themselves back on course for that elusive first away win of the season and, in a frantic finale that saw Ferdinand hobble off with a pulled hamstring and Christian Dailly and Harewood each join Martins, Milner and Dyer in referee Rennie's book, they had Carroll to thank for preserving a point, when he tipped over Martins' rasping, goalbound shot with just seconds remaining.