When Lucas Paqueta opened the scoring with this game’s first action of note, David Moyes might have been lured into thinking that his side's first Premier League win in five matches would arrive with little fuss.
Instead, the Scot was made to spend well over 90 minutes in the wringer on a rollercoaster Sunday afternoon, goals from Taiwo Awoniyi and Anthony Elanga either side of half-time putting Nottingham Forest ahead, before headers from Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek delivered West Ham a comeback of their own and a 3-2 triumph.
This was a vital win for the Hammers boss, his team going great guns in the cup competitions but, until Soucek's 88th-minute winner, were in danger of heading to Burnley the other side of the international break on a run of almost two months without a league success.
With Kurt Zouma’s return from a knee injury, Moyes had his squad at full health and restored the skipper to the heart of defence as one of three changes, Alphonse Areola and Tomas Soucek also coming back in to the side following Thursday’s 1-0 win over Olympiacos.
Forest, meanwhile, were unchanged from the side that so impressively beat Aston Villa at the weekend, but trailed within three minutes here, the opener brilliantly taken by Paqueta but teed up by some comical visiting play.
Nicolas Dominguez, who eventually saw a honking performance cut-short by a merciful half-time withdrawal, steered what ought to have been a routine pass straight into the rear-end of teammate Ibrahim Sangare, with the ball ricocheting loose to Paqueta. The Brazilian might have slipped Bowen in but instead used the Englishman’s run as a decoy, giving Odysseas Vladchodimos the long-range eyes in the Forest goal and steering low into the bottom corner.
Awoniyi went close to a swift leveller, denied by a brilliant Areola save, as West Ham failed to put foot on throat after their early breakthrough. The one clear chance to double the lead came on the counter-attack as James Ward-Prowse and Mohammed Kudus combined to free Paqueta, but the Ghanaian’s pass was premature and too softly weighted. Paqueta, checking back and off balance, could only shoot tamely at Vlachodimos.
With half-time approaching, the Hammers’ hesitancy cost them dear, Kudus and Soucek combining to lose out to Sangare on halfway. The midfielder released Morgan Gibbs-White, charging inside Emerson, and though Areola parried his strike, Awoniyi was on hand to nudge the rebound home.
There was greater urgency about the home side after the break, urged on by an increasingly restless crowd, but the most route-one of counters ought to have seen Forest complete their turnaround. Despite being outnumbered by West Ham defenders, Awoniyi was left free to bring down a hoofed drop-kick and then get on the end of Anthony Elanga’s return pass, only to steer wide.
Elanga had been a live threat all game, comfortably bettering Vladimir Coufal throughout the first-half, and was soon evading the Czech again, cleverly holding his run to meet Ola Aina’s pull-back to put the visitors in-front.
At that stage you feared for West Ham, a riled atmosphere bearing the potential to turn, but the response was almost immediate, Bowen rising to meet James Ward-Prowse’s corner with a true centre-forward’s header for his eighth League goal in just 12 matches this term.
This was now a proper barnburner and Aina’s dreadful back-header presented Soucek with chance to put the hosts in front again but on the stretch, the midfielder could only find the crossbar. Minutes later, from a Ward-Prowse free-kick, he went close again, tipped over the bar by Vlachodimos.
Try and try again then, and at last the pressure told, another Ward-Prowse set-piece and another Soucek header, this time the ball nestling in the bottom corner and West Ham, for the first time since beating Sheffield United on September 30, putting three points on the board.