West Ham boosted their unexpected bid to qualify for the Champions League with an emphatic 3-0 victory against lowly Sheffield United on Monday.
David Moyes’ side made six wins from their last eight Premier League games as they swept aside the bottom of the table Blades at the London Stadium.
An injury to Michail Antonio meant West Ham had to start without a recognised striker.
But with on-loan Manchester United forward Jesse Lingard providing the attacking menace as goals from Declan Rice, Issa Diop and Ryan Fredericks moved the Hammers into fourth place.
Chelsea would go above West Ham if they beat Newcastle later on Monday, but regardless of that result, Moyes has done a remarkable job to haul his team into European contention.
“It’s great because this time last year it was how can we avoid relegation?” Moyes said.
“I don’t want to say no, we can’t finish in the top four but I don’t want to say yes we can and set myself up. I want to be ambitious.
“I don’t think we’re going to get relegated with our points total, but I’m certainly not going to make a stupid statement saying something I can’t reach.”
Moyes had last week bemoaned the fact his side were the only team in the Premier League to have not been awarded a penalty this season.
His prayers were almost answered after only five minutes when Craig Dawson, following up Rice’s free-kick, was pushed over in the area by Enda Stephens.
Referee Simon Hooper awarded the spot-kick but VAR ruled that Dawson was offside when Rice struck his initial shot.
Moyes would not have to wait long for his penalty hoodoo to come to an end, however.
Lingard, back in the team after sitting out at Manchester United in the FA Cup under the terms of his loan deal, was getting a lot of joy in the inside-left position and twice forced good saves from Aaron Ramsdale.
And five minutes before half-time the England winger dispossessed Oliver Norwood, raced upfield and exchanged passes with Jarrod Bowen before he was wiped out in the area by an ungainly challenge from Chris Basham.
Lingard wanted to take the penalty but captain Rice pulled rank before tucking away his first goal of the season, and the first spot-kick of his career.
David McGoldrick should have hauled the Blades level with a close-range header, but his weak effort was kept out by a combination of Ben Johnson’s back and Lukasz Fabianski’s hand.
The miss proved costly moments later when Hammers defender Diop was left unmarked to head in Aaron Cresswell’s corner.
It was the eighth time that West Ham have scored from a corner this season, more than any other team.
To make matters worse for the visitors, defender John Egan left the field on a stretcher before Hammers substitute Fredericks drilled home in stoppage-time.
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