Sam Allardyce was again left to lament a questionable refereeing decision as West Ham United were beaten 2-0 by Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League at the Boleyn Ground.
After an even start, the Red Devils went ahead in a manner that was both controversial and spectacular on eight minutes. Wayne Rooney appeared to nudge James Tomkins as the defender rose to head clear on halfway, but official Lee Mason gave nothing and the England striker took full advantage by volleying over Adrian from fully 45 yards.
West Ham gamely attempted to get back into the game and saw a penalty appeal turned down for a Darren Fletcher challenge on Kevin Nolan on 33 minutes. Seconds later, it was 2-0 as Mark Noble cleared Ashley Young's cross straight to Rooney, who found the bottom corner.
The Hammers had chances of their own, only for their shots and headers to either be blocked or fly wide or over the target. At the other end, Adrian was kept busy by efforts from Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa, while Rooney passed up a couple of chances to complete his hat-trick.
After half-time, Big Sam threw on Carlton Cole and switched to a 4-4-2 formation, but it was to no avail as the Hammers dropped two places to 14th in the table.
"I think we've had another refereeing decision that has gone against us, or maybe two because I'm not absolutely sure Kevin's was a penalty, but Darren Fletcher did get across him and didn't play the ball," he told West Ham TV.
"Certainly the foul on James Tomkins resulted in the best goal of the weekend, but it shouldn't have stood because when the ball bounced James would have won a free header. Wayne Rooney knew he wasn't going to win it so he pushed James and James missed the header. The referee and assistant referee didn't do their jobs properly and Wayne Rooney produced the best bit of skill you'll see all weekend, if not all season, because I don't think we'll see another goal as good as that.
"It was unbelievable technique and not one I can really blame the goalie for, because the goalie always has to be out of his goal when the ball is on the halfway line. Nobody expected Wayne to shoot from that position, but he took the chance, struck it brilliantly and scored a goal.
"It was a big blow and it knocked the stuffing out of us, then the second one we thought might have got a penalty and would have got us back in the game if the referee had given it. Then they broke right up the other end, it looked like Mark Noble was going to clear it but unfortunately he passed it straight to Wayne, who scored again.
"As hard as we fought in the second half to get a goal back, we couldn't find one."
West Ham did more than match David Moyes' side before Rooney's second goal, but Big Sam admitted his team's defensive resilience had not been there at vital times for the second match in succession.
"You have got to keep the back door shut. We paid the price and did the same thing at Stoke City, where we were in control of the game and looked like we were going to score in the second half, then they got one ball in behind our midfield and they got through our back four and scored.
"Our defensive quality is there to make sure we have a platform to enable us to wait for our goal and not to have to fight back from goals down. If you go goals down against the likes of Manchester United, it is hugely difficult to come back and get something out of teams of that quality.
"We produced some good play, but I was a little bit disappointed that we didn't play better with Carlton up front [with Andy Carroll]. We started all right with Carlton up front and had started the second half very well, but instead of playing the ball through the midfield into wide positions, we started playing too many balls from back to front too quickly and ended up giving it away.
"As a result, we didn't exert as much pressure on Manchester United as we might have done."
West Ham now prepare for two proverbial six-pointers at home to Hull City on Wednesday evening and away at Sunderland a week on Monday. The manager is under no illusions about the importance of both matches. A win over Hull would take West Ham above Steve Bruce's side and put them within two victories of the magical 40-point mark.
"It is a massive game against Hull. We've played 30 games and only got 31 points now and I've always said that is what counts. We have got to try to maintain our points total above our games total.
"It's very important that we try and get a victory on Wednesday and feel a bit more secure."