West Brom took a major step towards Barclays Premier League survival as Saido Berahino’s first-half goal steered them to a 1-0 victory over West Ham at The Hawthorns – their first home win under boss Pepe Mel.
Albion top-scorer Berahino struck in the 11th minute, converting Morgan Amalfitano’s cross from close range.
Baggies goalkeeper Ben Foster did well to claw away an Andy Carroll header in the 19th minute and then saw the tall striker crash another headed effort against the West Brom crossbar in the second half.
But the home side hung on for a vital three points that takes them five clear of the relegation zone.
The Hammers, meanwhile, are six points above the bottom three but may not be entirely at ease after their fourth straight defeat.
The visitors made a bright start and Carroll – the threat of whom Mel had made particular reference to in the build-up to the contest – cracked a shot goalwards from Kevin Nolan’s lay-off in the sixth minute which Foster saved.
There was a further warning from West Ham moments later when Matt Jarvis put a delivery into the dangerzone and the West Brom defence did just about enough to clear the ball away.
But the Baggies have become accustomed to racing into early leads of late, having done so in their last two fixtures at The Hawthorns.
And although against the run of play, it happened again as Stephane Sessegnon burst forward and slid the ball to Amalfitano, who had plenty of time and space on the right of the box to tee-up Berahino’s finish.
The England Under-21 international was just inches from the line as he prodded the ball over it for his ninth West Brom goal of the season, on what was his first start for the club in eight games.
West Ham continued to push forward, with Carroll seeing a volley take a deflection and get cleared behind, before bringing a great diving save out of Foster with a firm header from Mohamed Diame’s cross.
West Brom’s response was a headed effort from Billy Jones, who threw himself at Amalfitano’s cross but could only send the ball wide.
There were further nervy moments for the hosts as Foster got away with a risky-looking sliding tackle on Jarvis outside the box before the England goalkeeper made another reaction save during a scramble inside it.
Almost immediately, Albion were back on the attack as Sessegnon and Graham Dorrans broke forward, but the latter could only fire wide from the edge of the area.
West Ham were forced into an early substitution as James Tomkins came off for James Collins, and the hosts then once again failed to show a ruthless edge, with Sessegnon receiving the ball in a promising-looking area but hesitating and seeing it deflect behind.
West Brom had to make a reshuffle themselves due to injury as Steven Reid limped off for James Morrison just before the break.
They enjoyed a spell of pressure after the interval, with Sessegnon twisting and turning before striking into the side netting, Adrian getting down to save Jones’ low shot and Dorrans dragging an attempt wide.
Sessegnon, who was appearing as much in the mood for the game as the vociferous Albion fans, tried to feed Berahino twice in quick succession, with the 20-year-old striker miscontrolling first time around and then on the second occasion producing a shot that rebounded off Adrian’s legs.
Soon after, Berahino lost control in front of goal once more as Youssouf Mulumbu’s ball came through to him.
West Brom were almost ruing those missed opportunities when Carroll met a corner and powered a header against the crossbar.
Adrian was then in action again, saving well from a drilled Sessegnon effort.
With those last two home games for Albion ending up as 3-3 draws due to the concession of late equalisers, Baggies fans were taking nothing for granted in the closing stages.
But they were celebrating come the final whistle, just like Mel as he savoured the winning feeling on home turf for the first time since his appointment in January.