West Ham 3 Fulham 1: Hernandez's handling sparks Hammers recovery
Javier Hernandez's controversial 50th Premier League goal helped West Ham to a come-from-behind 3-1 home win over embattled Fulham on Friday.
Ryan Babel opened his Cottagers account inside three minutes at the London Stadium but the struggling visitors failed to recover after Hernandez's game-changing 29th-minute equaliser.
The Hammers striker's goal-line handball went unnoticed and his side used the lucky lifeline as the springboard to a half-time advantage thanks to Issa Diop's 40th-minute header.
Michail Antonio nodded home the third in the first minute of second-half stoppage time to ensure Claudio Ranieri's side remain eight points adrift of safety.
Babel failed to convert a one-on-one 36 seconds into the match but did not wait long for redemption.
Pablo Zabaleta's weak back-pass gifted away the first chance and he compounded the error by allowing Ryan Sessegnon to deliver the low cross for Babel's first Premier League goal in 3000 days.
The equaliser came steeped in controversy. Antonio and Angelo Ogbonna won headers following Sergio Rico's poor punch before Hernandez guided the ball in with his left hand.
West Ham cared little and scored from a second corner when Diop rose to emphatically meet Robert Snodgrass' delivery.
Marko Arnautovic came on just after the hour before Manuel Lanzini, sidelined since undergoing knee surgery in June, stepped off the bench for his first appearance of the season.
And, after hitting the upright with one attempt, it was the enigmatic Austria international who supplied the cross for winger Antonio to sew up a first victory in six outings for Manuel Pellegrini's men.
What does it mean? Cottagers squander a chance
The heavy defeat Cardiff City simultaneously suffered suffered against Watford could well have made this a momentous fixture for Fulham in the context of their fight against relegation.
Instead, they were left to rue a wasted opportunity against an opponent that entered the match in unconvincing shape.
Dominant Diop does the job
West Ham might well have a fight on their hands at the end of the season with 22-year-old defender Diop sure to attract admiring glances.
The France youth international was obdurate in dealing with Aleksandar Mitrovic, polished in possession and a handful in attack, as demonstrated with his determined header before half-time.
Tentative Rico leaves Fulham in ruins
Ranieri has every right to rail against the legality of West Ham's equaliser but he cannot escape the fact his goalkeeper could comfortably have defused the situation.
Rico, one of three senior goalkeepers vying for the number one shirt, produced a weak punch from Snodgrass' corner and was similarly exposed for the second, getting nowhere near Diop's authoritative header.
The on-loan shot-stopper recovered some pride with a smart late stop from Arnautovic but the damage was done.
West Ham have a tougher assignment away to Manchester City on Wednesday as Fulham travel to fellow relegation candidates Southampton.