DICK ADVOCAAT’S opening game in charge of Sunderland culminated in defeat after cruelly conceding a late winner at West Ham.
Sunderland had been on track for their 15th draw of the season after a scrappy, ugly game at Upton Park, where there had been nothing between the two sides.
Defoe just beat the offside trap, but with only Adrian to beat, he screwed his half-volley high and wide of the near post
But the Black Cats, who saw Jermain Defoe spurn a glorious first half chance, paid the price for conceding with two minutes to go when Diafra Sakho netted after referee Lee Mason failed to spot a blatant foul on Seb Larsson.
The loss keeps Sunderland just a point above the drop zone heading into the international break, with the Wear-Tyne derby next up in a fortnight.
Adam Johnson, whose suspension was lifted by the club this week, was on the bench, as Advocaat made two changes to his starting XI - dropping Liam Bridcutt, while Ricky Alvarez missed out altogether.
Connor Wickham and Jordi Gomez came into the side, as Advocaat went with his favoured 4-3-3 formation, with Wickham operating just behind Steven Fletcher and Jermain Defoe.
There was one change for West Ham, with full-back Carl Jenkinson returning to the starting XI.
Sunderland started positively and came close to opening the scoring in the eighth minute when Gomez played a lovely ball in behind for Defoe to chase onto down the right channel.
Defoe got his head up and picked out Wickham with his cross, with the striker chesting it down and then sending in a powerful volley which Adrian parried away.
Sunderland were then forced into an early change when Wes Brown landed awkwardly from a header, injured his knee and was replaced by Santiago Vergini.
Defoe spurned a glorious chance in the 15th minute when Fletcher’s header sent the striker in behind the home defence.
The ex-West Ham man just beat the offside trap, but with only Adrian to beat, he screwed his half-volley high and wide of the near post.
Moments later, the Hammers went close at the other end when Diafra Sakho’s header from Aaron Cresswell’s left-wing cross bounced just wide of the far post.
Costel Pantilimon produced a smart save in the 31st minute when Sunderland could only clear a free-kick as far as Alex Song, 25 yards out.
Song met it first-time on the volley, which bounced awkwardly for Pantilimon, but the Sunderland keeper pushed it away low to his right.
HALF-TIME West Ham 0 Sunderland 0
Sakho went close with another header seven minutes into the second half when he was again picked out by Cresswell’s cross, but sent his effort a yard wide.
There was controversy in the 64th minute when Kevin Nolan was clearly dragged back by Santiago Vergini six yards out, only for the offside flag to go up.
However, West Ham’s punted free-kick into the area looked like it had been flicked on by John O’Shea.
The second half had been a drab affair, yet Patrick van Aanholt produced a moment of real quality in the 77th minute when the left-back let fly from 30 yards.
The ball swerved viciously in the air, but Adrian just managed to tip it away at full-stretch to his right.
But with two minutes to go, the Hammers broke the deadlock when Noble bundled the ball to Sakho, to the right of goal, 12 yards out, and the striker placed it into the far corner.
Advocaat was incensed; correctly believing Larsson had been fouled by Nene on the edge of the area in the build-up.
FULL-TIME West Ham 1 Sunderland 0
WEST HAM: Adrian, Jenkinson, Collins, Kouyate, Cresswell, Song, Noble, Nolan (Nene 80), Jarvis (Cole 46), Downing, Sakho (O’Brien 90). Subs not used: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Poyet, Amalfitano.
SUNDERLAND: Pantilimon, Reveillere, van Aanholt, O’Shea, Brown (Vergini 12), Larsson, Gomez, Rodwell, Defoe (Graham 88), Wickham, Fletcher (Johnson 73). Subs not used: Jones, Bridcutt, Watmore, Mannone. Booked: Wickham (63)
Referee: Lee Mason