The boos that greeted the final whistle said it all. West Ham supporters had just seen their team show the resilience required to earn a point having found themselves 2-1 down at half-time, but they failed to triumph in a match their manager had described as "must-win" and, as such, remain the relegation zone. Little wonder the natives are restless and, for Sam Allardyce, the uncertainty surrounding his position is growing.
He did not have the look of a condemned man after this absorbing contest against a West Bromwich Albion side that twice came from behind to remain undefeated under their caretaker manager, Keith Downing. Instead, he spoke about the pride he felt in his team's display and put their conceding three goals for a third successive league game down to the fact that after James Tomkins became the club's latest injury casualty with a suspected groin strain in the 10th minute the defence had to operate with full-backs in the four positions.
Allardyce was perhaps right to be positive, yet it remains one win in 12 games for 19th-place West Ham before a potentially crucial meeting with Fulham on New Year's Day.
"We started well, looked comfortable, and the lads continued to do the right things, even after going behind – I couldn't ask much more of them," said Allardyce, who is now favourite among some bookmakers to be the next Premier League manager to be sacked. "I honestly feel that if we didn't have full-backs playing across our defence we would have won. We have to get our injured players fit, it's been weeks and weeks [out] for too many of them."
The standout absentee remains the record signing, Andy Carroll, who has not played a minute for West Ham this season because of an ankle injury. In his absence, they have looked toothless in attack, although here they well and truly sprung into life.
Key to the flurry of goals was Modibo Maïga, a half-time substitute for Carlton Cole. The Mali striker had already tested Ben Foster with a long-range drive from the edge of the area before he made it 2-2 on 65 minutes with a low shot, from an almost identical position, that the West Brom keeper should have dealt with better.
Maïga was also involved in the goal that made it 3-2 to West Ham, heading Mark Noble's delivery back across the area, where Kevin Nolan was waiting to acrobatically strike the ball into the net. Cue bedlam in the stands, with those Hammers fans in attendance relishing seeing a side that had continued to show spirit and determination during this contest getting some reward. But there was to be a sting in the tail as Saido Berahino ran on to Chris Brunt's pass and made it 3-3 with a low drive. "We mentally switched from the delight of going ahead," reflected Allardyce.
West Brom deserved the equaliser. Under pressure they may have been, but the visitors showed eye-catching movement and crisp passing throughout this contest and, having gone behind to Joe Cole's early opener, punished West Ham's all-too-slack defending. Nicolas Anelka struck on 40 minutes with a coolly taken finish, having collected Brunt's defence-splitting pass, before striking from close-range after the hosts had failed to clear a corner.
The goals were Anelka's first and second for West Brom since joining the club on a free transfer in the summer, and his reward for an intelligent display. What a shame, then, that there should be controversy surrounding one of his goal celebrations.
Downing did not want to focus on that after the final whistle and, instead, paid tribute to his team's display, especially given the number of "tired legs" in the visitors' ranks after their second match in 48 hours.
"I made changes to freshen things up and the lads responded fantastically well," said Downing, who expects to remain in charge for the New Year's Day visit of Newcastle, as the club's search for a new manager goes on having just ended negotiations with Pepe Mel.
Allardyce also pointed to tiredness in his side after their Boxing Day encounter with Arsenal. As far as the West Ham fans are concerned, however, the excuses are beginning to run out.