West Ham moved up to fifth in the Premier League as Declan Rice, Issa Diop and Ryan Fredericks were all on target in a 3-0 win over rock bottom Sheffield United at the London Stadium.
West Ham, who had an early penalty ruled out by VAR, took the lead from the spot five minutes before half-time.
Jesse Lingard was brought down by Chris Basham and Rice converted the penalty.
David Moyes' side doubled their lead in the 58th minute when Diop headed in Aaron Cresswell's corner as the hosts made it six wins in eight league games. Substitute Ryan Fredericks wrapped up a 3-0 win for the Hammers in stoppage time (90+6).
The result moves the Irons up to fifth in the table following Chelsea's 2-0 win over Newcastle on Monday Night Football, two points clear of sixth-placed Liverpool. Sheffield United remain bottom, 14 points adrift of safety with 14 games remaining.
West Ham: Fabianski (7), Diop (7), Dawson (7), Cresswell (7), Coufal (6), Soucek (6), Rice (7), Johnson (7), Lingard (8), Lanzini (7), Bowen (7).
Subs: Benrahma (n/a), Noble (6),Fredericks (n/a).
Sheff Utd: Ramsdale (6), Basham (5), Egan (5), Ampadu (5), Bogle (4), Lundstram (5), Norwood (4), Osborn (6), Stevens (5), McGoldrick (6), Sharp (5).
Subs: McBurnie (5), Jagielka (5).
Man of the match: Jesse Lingard.
Hammers continue European charge
West Ham were looking to complete a league double over Sheffield United in the top flight for the first time since the 1967/68 season under Ron Greenwood - and it looked like they had made the perfect start when referee Simon Hooper awarded them a penalty after just five minutes.
Rice's initial free-kick was saved by Aaron Ramsdale before Craig Dawson was brought down by Enda Stevens as he pounced on the rebound. But the Blades were handed an early reprieve with VAR Michael Oliver advising for the spot-kick to be overturned as Dawson was standing in an offside position in the build-up.
After a 20-game winless run in the Premier League, Chris Wilder's side had won three of their last six in the competition, and they began to assert themselves after a sluggish start. David McGoldrick was unable to direct Oliver Norwood's tempting cross on goal before Ben Osborn drew a smart save from Lukasz Fabianski at his near post.
- How the teams lined up | Match stats
- Premier League table | Premier League top scorers
- Premier League fixtures | Premier League results
With Michail Antonio still sidelined, West Ham were set up to play on the counter-attack in the absence of a focal point, and Ramsdale was soon brought into action to keep out Lingard's shot.
West Ham lined up against Sheffield United without a recognised striker after Michail Antonio was ruled out again through injury. Jesse Lingard returned to the starting line-up after missing the FA Cup defeat at parent club Manchester United.
Enda Stevens and Ben Osborn returned for the Blades, with John Fleck missing out through illness.
But moments after another fine save from Fabianski to deny Osborn, Sheffield United demonstrated just why they have struggled all season as West Ham were awarded another penalty which stood on this occasion.
A slack crossfield pass from Norwood was intercepted by Lingard to set the hosts on their way. Having leant the ball to Jarrod Bowen, Lingard was fed through the middle before being unceremoniously bundled over by Basham, who was somewhat fortunate not to see red. Hooper deemed he had gone for the ball.
Lingard wanted the penalty himself, but Rice pulled rank to steer his spot-kick low into the left-hand corner beyond the outstretched glove of Ramsdale, four minutes before the break. In his 137th Premier League appearance, it was Rice's first penalty of his career and ended a run of 2,110 minutes without a spot-kick for West Ham this season.
Moyes said afterwards: "We want the organisation to be clear. If Mark Noble had been on the pitch he'd have taken it. I see it as a bit of a step-up for Declan, taking that ownership as it was his first."
Wilder was left with the familiar feeling of his side falling 1-0 down - the 18th time this campaign - but Sheffield United very nearly provided an instant response following the restart as McGoldrick met Billy Sharp's cross from the left but his header deflected off Ben Johnson and was tipped over by Fabianski.
The miss would prove costly as six minutes later, West Ham doubled their lead in routine fashion. Diop lost Ethan Ampadu at Aaron Cresswell's corner to steer his header low beyond Ramsdale as the Blades stared down the barrel of a 19th Premier League defeat of the season.
The manner of the goal was of little surprise; West Ham's 13th from a corner or indirect free-kick this season, more than any other side, while it was Sheffield United's 11th conceded - a league-high.
Former West Ham defender James Collins told Sky Sports: "Wilder will be absolutely fuming. Sheffield United had been by far the better side at the start of the second half."
But Wilder knew it was not to be his night once more when McGoldrick was again thwarted as he rose to meet Osborn's cross as Fabianski was once more well-placed to grab low to his left.
West Ham had chances to extend their lead in the final 20 minutes as Vladimir Coufal pounced on a mix-up between Basham and John Egan but Ramsdale was out to smother his shot at the near post.
Sheffield United's misery was compounded late on with Egan carried off on a stretcher following a last-ditch challenge on Lingard - and worse was to follow as Fredericks collected Said Benrahma's pass to flash his shot into the bottom corner in the final minute of stoppage time.
What the managers said
West Ham boss David Moyes: "I'm really pleased with the effort the players are putting in. We know this is a big result for us tonight and I can't say enough about what the players are doing. I feel there's another level that these players can get to. The challenge is to get them to that level before the end of the season but I'm really pleased with them.
"The form we showed after lockdown last season gave me hope for this season but it's the players who have kicked on. We've got a really good spirit at the moment. Results have helped that greatly, and long may that continue. Micky [Michail Antonio] is really important to us so we hope we get him back. I don't want to lose him from a long period so we didn't want to risk him. He may be back for next Sunday."
"We've got five games before April 1, so if we get through those games then it may then hot up. I don't want to be negative in any way, but the teams around us are super teams.
"We're around some top talent and we're going to have to play incredibly well to get there. But I feel we've got another gear to get to. We had to find a solution tonight to get the win and we found it."
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder: "They've got experience in the ranks, even late on to see the game out. The big moments are when we don't play quick enough and when we give away a ridiculous opportunity to score, which they did [for the first].
"You can't make it easy for the opposition at this level. We've gift-wrapped two goals - particularly the first one just before half-time. They've got some excellent players in the top end of the pitch but we were well in the game at that point. We got a foothold in the game but the timing and manner of the first goal was terrible.
"It was always going to be an uphill battle after the second but we didn't take our chances. If we make the mistakes we made tonight, there's no chance for us. That's me being honest.
On Egan's injury: "Obviously it doesn't look great with him going off on a stretcher. We'll assess that. We lost John Fleck through illness out of nowhere which typifies how the season has gone for us. It's been a really disappointing campaign regarding injuries. It doesn't look good. John is a tough Irish boy who puts his body on the line every game so for him to stick his hand up in the manner that he did, didn't look good and wasn't a good sign."
Man of the match - Jesse Lingard
With Antonio out, the onus was on Lingard, alongside Manuel Lanzini and Bowen to provide West Ham with an outlet on the counter and not for the first time this season, Moyes' gameplan was played out to perfection. This was a professional job, Moyes said himself afterwards of his team, but Lingard provided the most accomplished performance.
On this evidence, the 28-year-old has a future with his parent club Manchester United but for now, Lingard is just happy to be back playing football. He showed no sign of rust as his lively presence drew a penalty which led to the crucial opener shortly before the break.
Lingard was determined to add to his goal tally - shown by his eagerness to take the penalty off Rice - while he racked up four shots on target - more than any other player. But it was his game intelligence which stood out.
Moyes said: "I thought some of Jesse's stuff tonight was great. He gave us an outlet and he's definitely helped us. We needed a few more attacking aspects to our game. With Lanzini and Bowen playing well too, there's a lot to be pleased about."
West Ham continue fast start to 2021 - Opta stats
- Following their 12th Premier League victory of the season, West Ham have accumulated 42 points from 24 games - only in 1983-84 (43) and 1985-86 (48) have the Hammers had more points on the board at this stage of a top-flight campaign.
- Sheffield United have won one of their last 13 away games against West Ham in all competitions (D6 L6), a 2-0 win in the Championship in January 2005.
- Since the turn of the year, West Ham have won 19 points in the Premier League (P8 W6 D1 L1) - only Manchester City (27 points) have accumulated more in the competition in 2021.
- No side has failed to score in more Premier League games this season than Sheffield United (12, level with Burnley).
- Sheffield United have conceded the first goal of the game in 18 Premier League matches this season - more than any other side.
- No team has scored more goals from corners in the Premier League this season than West Ham (8, level with Chelsea), while no side has conceded more goals in this manner this term than Sheffield United (8, level with Leeds).
Live Premier League
Live Renault Super Sunday
West Ham host Tottenham at the London Stadium in the Premier League on Super Sunday at 12pm. Sheffield United travel to take on Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 8pm.