Sam Allardyce admits West Ham rode their luck as two Mark Noble penalties sent his side to the top of the Championship in a 2-1 win over former European champions Nottingham Forest.
Allardyce’s team took advantage of Southampton’s inactivity to secure a third successive win and move three points clear of the Saints ahead of their promotion rivals’ clash with Leicester on Monday.
But struggling Forest, who scored an injury-time consolation through Lewis McGugan, felt harshly treated by referee Tony Bates and his assistants and Allardyce conceded they could have had a case.
Bates ruled Guy Moussi to have handled a Jack Collison cross from point-blank range in first-half stoppage time, and then penalised Chris Gunter for handball after an hour.
“We went ahead through probably quite a fortunate penalty, but you have to be professional and dispose of it when you get the opportunity,” Allardyce said.
“It was not the best of days but when you can dig a win out it shows the resilience of the players.
“We can look at the table and see we are three points ahead of Southampton, which is where we want to be.”
Southampton will regain top spot on goal difference if they beat Leicester.
Cardiff manager Malky Mackay was impressed with his players’ battling qualities as the third-placed Bluebirds clinched a dramatic 3-2 win at home to Portsmouth.
Kenny Miller put Cardiff in front from Peter Whittingham’s cross in the 15th minute, but the hosts fell behind to goals from Marko Futacs and Greg Halford as Pompey threatened just a second win in 13 away league games.
However, Mark Hudson levelled for Cardiff in the second half and Craig Conway netted the winner in injury time to extend their unbeaten run to five matches.
“It was a well-deserved victory. The first 35 minutes was some of the best stuff we’ve played for a while,” Mackay said.
“Portsmouth are a big, physical team and we knew they would cause us problems from set-pieces.
“But we kept believing and playing and I was absolutely delighted with the mentality of the players.”
Hull are up to fifth, behind Middlesbrough on goals scored alone, after beating Reading 1-0 at the Madejski Stadium as Robbie Brady netted the only goal in the 66th minute.
Middlesbrough have now gone four league games without a win after they slumped to a 3-1 defeat at bottom club Coventry.
In-form Birmingham moved above Reading into the play-off places with a 3-0 home win over Watford.
Curtis Davies scored a headed double and Chris Burke made sure of the win with nine minutes to go to take Blues’ unbeaten league run to six.
“It is a nice feeling to be in the top six,” Blues boss Chris Hughton said. “We now want to enjoy being in the top six and we want to stay there. We are where we are on merit.”
Elsewhere, Bristol City boosted their bid to avoid relegation with a 2-1 home win over second-bottom Doncaster.
Darius Henderson hit a hat-trick as struggling Millwall enjoyed a 3-1 win at Barnsley.
Blackpool scored twice in the last five minutes to beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Bloomfield Road, Leeds won 3-1 against Ipswich, Brighton defeated Peterborough 2-1 and Derby drew 0-0 with Burnley.