A brace from striker Glenn Murray helped Brighton & Hove Albion to a shock 0-3 victory at The London Stadium on Friday night, to turn up the heat on Hammers boss Slaven Bilic.
The Seagulls struck either side of half-time through Murray, with a superb effort from Jose Izquierdo sandwiched in between to deliver the visitors a first ever Premier League away victory and the hosts, a Hammer blow.
A remarkable win for Chris Hughton’s men sends them up to tenth position, meanwhile, we fall two places to 17th after a dreadful defensive display, looming dangerously close to The Relegation Zone.
From the start, Slaven Bilic opted for two changes from last weekend’s frustrating 1-1 draw at Turf Moor as England man Aaron Cresswell was replaced by Arthur Masuaku and suspended Andy Carroll by Pedro Obiang.
The switches resulted in a change of formation to the 4-2-3-1 from The Croat as he was without two of his key forwards and skipper Mark Noble remained on the bench.
Whereas, Chris Hughton also made two alterations to the side that were cruelly denied all three points at home to The Toffees last Sunday, with Gaetan Bong coming in for Markus Suttner and Jose Izquierdo replacing Solly March.
On an atmospheric Friday night under the lights at The London Stadium, it would be that very Brighton side that made the brighter start to silence The Claret & Blue Army.
On ten minutes, the visitors won a free-kick in the centre of the park, to be taking by prolific forward Pascal Gross, the German swiftly delivered to the head of Murray.
The former Crystal Palace man’s effort nestled in the far corner, beyond the reach of Joe Hart to give The Seagulls a shock lead, this would be exactly the confidence boost they needed.
Despite soaking up an enormous deal of Hammers pressure in the first period, Hughton’s back line held out well to constantly clear a barrage of bombardment.
Although dominant in possession, our midfielders couldn’t link well with the forwards and the away side would soon capitalise on our sloppy play with a deadly breakaway on the stroke of half-time.
Just moments after Glenn Murray was denied an excellent chance to double the advantage by Hart, Jose Izquierdo was found on the left side and the Columbian quickly jinked into a dangerous area.
His shot, powerful and accurate, would give the England stopper next to no chance of pulling off a miraculous save as the ball flew into the top corner via his palm.
Brighton’s second had been scored at a vital time and as Referee Martin Atkinson blew his half-time whistle, a chorus of boos rang out in Stratford.
Bilic opted to change things at the break ahead of one of the most important halves of his Hammers career as Andre Ayew replaced Cheikhou Kouyate, but the switch would have very little effect as things soon went from bad to worse.
Just moments after Manuel Lanzini flashed a dangerous free-kick just wide, a twisting and turning Murray was fouled in the area by Pablo Zabaleta.
Murray would not miss from the spot to score the goal that ensured his Seagulls side a first ever Premier League away victory and prompted many fans to leave early.
The atmosphere, so jubilant at the start of the tie, quickly turned sour with trouble erupting between fellow supporters in The Betway Stand Lower, but a bigger storm was surely brewing in the Board Room.
The visitors would see the affair out with relative ease and keep huge pressure on a stretched Slaven Bilic, who may well be sacked in the coming days.
However, Wednesday’s Carabao Cup London Derby with Tottenham Hotspur will surely offer the former Croatia Manager a chance to redeem himself, but there is no denying the severity of an embarrassing defeat.
Meanwhile, Hughton’s men will now have a week off to bask in the glory of a highly impressive away victory, before facing off with Southampton next Sunday in an exciting South Coast Derby.
Hammer of the Match: Joe Hart