West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola admitted he had breathed a sigh of relief after Valon Behrami's goal ended a run of seven matches without a win. Swiss international Behrami struck in the first half at Sunderland and the Hammers held for a 1-0 victory that moved them away from the relegation zone.
But the visitors had to defend for long periods on a day when Sunderland were once again punished for failing to take their chances. "We are passionate about this game - we take it too seriously sometimes, so it is normal that you suffer a little bit," said Zola. "This is going to give the boys a big boost. Finally, we have got a very important result after our hard work.
"It has been a difficult time and it is very, very important for the players - and for the manager as well. Maybe sometimes we have played better football and not got anything. The result is something we think we deserved for what we have done in the past. I am very pleased for the players. They were fantastic. It is all down to them."
Behrami's winner came somewhat against the run of play as Sunderland dominated the first half, but failed to make the most of their chances. Sunderland created opportunities in the opening 45 minutes, but failed to take any of them with Djibril Cisse passing up a series of chances, and as their desperation grew after the break, they ran out of ideas.
Sunderland manager Roy Keane admitted after the game that his side, which has not won back-to-back league games all season, needs a change of mentality. He said: "Last year, we ended up losing 20-odd games - if you turn 20-odd defeats into six or seven draws, it makes a big difference at the end of the season.
"That's something we have got to find at the club in the first team, that mentality where we are not at it, but we will take a draw. We have seen other teams doing it. It just seems to be win or bust. That's something we are daily working to change. You have got to take advantage of games like this. There are no gimmes in this league, but a home game, we felt, was an opportunity at least to get a point."