Ultimately Sunderland were undone by the soft centre that has underpinned this woeful season.
Two clearly preventable goals, even if the delivery from Robert Snodgrass for the second was quite sublime.
It undermined a much improved attacking display, when for the first time in a while the Black Cats played on the front foot, creating the best chances for the most part and carving open a Hammers defence that had remarkably little shape or desire off the ball.
The front three offered a tantalising glimpse of something better.
Victor Anichebe was far from his best, spurning some good opportunities, still taking just a bit too long on the ball, still searching for fluency, understandable after such a long period out.
Jermain Defoe, too, was well below his best level, just not able to make the ball stick when it came into his feet.
Yet Sunderland were still their most threatening for a while, lead by Wahbi Khazri, the Tunisian at his menacing, waspish best.
It wasn't just his quality on the ball, the goal from the corner, the wonderful drive infield to tee up Didier Ndong. He pressed, won the ball back, hauled his side up the field.
He created space for Ndong to thrive on the right flank, even if the Gabon man disappointed with his end product.
Crucially, he sucked in Hammers players from further infield. West Ham were not able, as Manchester United did last week, to shut down Sunderland's attacking threat by dominating Anichebe in the end.
They had options, presence and variety.
The quality was not always there, far from it, but there was a purpose and a direction.
It turned a potentially toxic atmosphere into something that at times was genuinely stirring, even if the undercurrent of dissatisfaction towards the manager never entirely evaporated.
At long last, a game that ended not with a whimper, but a siege, a belief that a third goal may just be on the way.
That is something to be applauded, but in truth it only serves to underline the frustration that it has taken so long. Anichebe's injury troubles have been unfortunate, but the failure to source a back-up target man in January rankles.
As for Khazri, his resurgence was most welcomed, but in the final reckoning it will likely count for precious little.
Sunderland will not be able to turn this situation around. The key games for a playmaker to make a difference, Burnley, Watford, Leicester, have been and gone.
Khazri will likely end the season a talent unfulfilled, moving on to pastures new. Another creative talent to pass through Wearside without the chance to make his mark.
It was a better afternoon in so many ways, but it was not enough.