There were 17 seconds between Michail Antonio chipping tamely into the arms of Vicente Guiata at one end and Michael Olise’s shot looping off Aaron Cresswell, over Lukasz Fabianski and into the net at the other.
They were the moments, deep into stoppage time, that just about summed up West Ham’s Premier League season to date: an attack which does not quite seem to click; a defence a little too easily exposed; and the rub of the green proving all too elusive.
It was a passage, too, that had a familiar feel to it, evoking memories of an almost freakishly similar Antonio blunder that led to a late Wilfried Zaha goal at Selhurst Park in 2017. It was also one that finally offered Crystal Palace some just deserts - Patrick Vieira’s side winning on the road for the first time since April and climbing into the top half of the table after a tricky start to the season.
“It’s been coming,” Vieira said. “Away from home we’ve had some good performances but didn’t get what we fully deserved. Today, we deserved that win.”
In truth, a draw in this London derby would have been no great injustice, but if there was to be a winner then Vieira was correct in determining Palace the value pick, Eberechi Eze lively if a touch wasteful and Cheick Doucoure extremely impressive in midfield.
The widespread booing of Moyes’ decision to withdraw goalscorer Benrahma provided evidence of an undercurrent of frustration
After another tepid, slow start West Ham took the lead through Said Benrahma’s fine strike on his 100th appearance for the club. Zaha pounced on some dreadful play between Thilo Kehrer and Craig Dawson to level, before Olise’s deflected effort earned the Eagles all three points.
Minutes earlier, West Ham had almost been gifted their own chance to win it but VAR blessedly intervened to stop Marc Guehi’s faint touch on Antonio resulting in a spot-kick. Even David Moyes, a staunch and justified critic of VAR on several occasions this season, saw no reason to complain.
“It was gutting but we didn’t deserve to win,” Hammers boss David Moyes said. “There was always a chance we could lose it and that’s what happened in the end.
“For all I thought Crystal Palace played well today, I didn’t think their good play got anything from it. I thought our bad play got them the first goal and the second one, you could call it bad play as well."
Such is the congested state of the table that West Ham would themselves have climbed into the top half with a win. Instead, after a third League defeat in four games, Moyes’ side are just two points clear of the relegation zone and there is now huge pressure on next weekend’s home meeting with an improving Leicester, the last chance to pull clear again before a pause in the season that, following investment of £150million in the summer, would be better spent looking up rather than down.
“That was a game we had to win,” captain Declan Rice said. “Two big games before the World Cup and you lose one of them so you’re counting on the next game. In the last couple of years we’d have won a game like this and been comfortable in the table.”
A perfect Europa Conference League group stage has papered over some cracks, providing a win-a-week uplift, but the Hammers’ domestic form has been a concern for some time. It was hardly mutinous stuff, particularly by West Ham and London Stadium standards, but the widespread booing of Moyes’ decision to withdraw goalscorer Benrahma provided evidence of an undercurrent of frustration.
It is certainly not panic stations yet, but whatever happens against the Foxes next weekend, Moyes will be under pressure to use the winter reset to inspire significant improvement by the time the season restarts on Boxing Day.