Jermain Defoe helped spare West Ham manager Alan Pardew's blushes as his two goals helped the Hammers come back from 2-0 down to beat Sunderland at Upton Park.
Defoe believes his chances of an England call-up are being harmed while he
plays in the First Division, and he could not have provided a better
advertisement of his talents to potential suitors on his return from a five-match ban.
West Ham were a shambolic rabble in the first half, allowing Jason McAteer and
John Oster to give Sunderland a comfortable half-time cushion.
But two moments of magic from the sought-after England Under-21 striker and a
late winner from Ian Pearce completed a stunning turnaround.
Things started badly when Tommy Smith broke
clear down the left in the fourth minute, tempting David James out of the West
England's number one was so indecisive that he allowed Smith to sidestep a
weak challenge and flash in a cross which evaded everyone but McAteer, who
smashed home into an empty net.
Oster, also returning after hamstring trouble, doubled Sunderland's lead
on the half-hour mark.
Smith again was the creator, his shot squirming out of
James's hands in the rain and falling kindly for Oster to finish.
West Ham's frustration boiled over, and predictably it was Tomas Repka who
provided the fireworks.
Moving in to defuse a flare-up between Oster and Marlon
Harewood, his temper got the better of him and he threw a punch at the
Sunderland man, with a booking marking a lucky escape.
His side survived another scare after the restart when Jeff Whitley was given
all the time in the world to crack a 25-yard shot off the crossbar.
But Defoe, who had earlier hit a post, then transformed the match, scoring
first from close-range after Poom had spilled substitute Brian Deane's header.
Defoe then fired home on the turn from Matthew Etherington's centre for his 13th goal of the
And when Pearce capitalised on a Kevin Horlock free-kick which rebounded off the
far post to stab home the winner with 10 minutes remaining, the home fans in the
30,329 crowd erupted.
West Ham: James, Repka, Dailly, Pearce, Quinn, Harewood,
Mullins, Horlock, Etherington, Connolly, Defoe. Subs: Bywater,
Hutchison, Stockdale, Deane, Cohen.
Sunderland: Poom, Wright, McCartney, Bjorklund, Arca, Oster,
Thirlwell, McAteer, Whitley, Stewart, Tommy Smith. Subs: Ingham,
Kyle, Babb, Quinn, Butler.
Referee: P Joslin (Nottinghamshire).