After being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Bolton, West Ham will have to change the course of history if they are going to avoid relegation this season.
The Hammers will spend Christmas Day at the bottom of the Premiership, and no team has ever survived from that position in the 10 years the competition has been in existence.
West Ham were leading Bolton at Upton Park thanks to a well-taken goal from stand-in striker Ian Pearce and appeared to be in control.
But that changed after 64 minutes when substitute Michael Ricketts stroked home the equaliser from what looked to be an offside position, 10 minutes after he had replaced Youri Djorkaeff.
With captain Paolo di Canio out until the new year and Freddie Kanoute still not ready to return to the Hammers attack, Pearce was employed as an emergency striker for the fourth successive game.
He delivered too when he struck after 16 minutes with a finish any striker would have been proud of - to claim his second goal in three games.
Michael Carrick's pass was flicked on by Jermain Defoe, and Pearce got ahead of the Bolton defence on the left edge of the box before carrying the ball a few yards forward and drilling his shot past goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
But things went pear-shaped for West Ham when Ricketts grabbed his equaliser.
Jay-Jay Okocha had his back to goal but showed good close control before looping the ball over his head into the six-yard box. Ricketts looked to be a yard offside as he pounced and stroked the ball past James. But there was no flag, and the goal stood.
Both teams had looked a little nervous at the start before West Ham put together the first decent move of the game in the sixth minute with some good passing down the right - and when Sebastien Schemmel crossed for Defoe his header was only just over the bar.
That lifted the home fans, and the Hammers followed it up in the next two minutes with a looping shot from Michael Carrick - comfortably saved by Jaaskelainen - and then a shot across the face of goal by Pearce, which went wide.
Bolton's first shot at goal came from a 30-yard free-kick after 12 minutes, but Per Frandsen's low drive was wide of David James' right post.
Any tension hanging in the air around Upton Park was lifted after 16 minutes when Pearce showed a striker's instinct and fired West Ham into the lead.
It was the first time the Hammers had taken the lead at home since they surrendered a 2-0 lead against Arsenal, and the big question was whether or not they could go on and win at Upton Park for the first time this season.
They have not had much luck in recent weeks - but they enjoyed a huge slice after 25 minutes when Bolton were denied an equaliser by the post.
Henrik Pedersen had his back to goal on the six-yard line but managed to turn and send in a shot which had James beaten. However, the ball struck the far post and bounced away from goal.
Bolton produced a clever free-kick after 31 minutes which needed a good save from James to keep West Ham's lead intact.
Djorkaeff tricked everyone by playing a square pass to Frandsen, who hit a fierce shot from 25 yards. But James blocked the effort, and Dailly completed the clearance.
West Ham won a free-kick after 54 minutes when Schemmel was taken out by Anthony Barness on the right flank, just a yard from the by-line, for which the Bolton man was booked.
Bolton boss Sam Allardyce knew his team needed a cutting edge up front - and Ricketts, who had been out of action with a groin strain, replaced Djorkaeff before the free-kick was taken.
West Ham went for the killer goal, and it almost arrived after 63 minutes when Sinclair was foiled by a great saving tackle from Ricardo Gardner as he prepared to shoot. The resulting corner was played short to Carrick, and his blistering shot was beaten away.
West Ham were hauled back by Rickets but still had a final golden opportunity to win the game with two minutes remaining.
Lomas crossed from the right, but Sinclair sent a free header wide of the near post.
Tomas Repka had to be pulled away from the referee's assistant at the final whistle, and his team-mates again left their home pitch feeling deflated.
West Ham manager Glenn Roeder called for match officials to be accountable for
their decisions after his team were denied their first home win of the season by
an 'offside' goal.
The Hammers appeared to be heading off the bottom of the Premiership thanks to
Ian Pearce's 16th-minute goal, before substitute Michael Ricketts rescued Bolton
with a 64th-minute equaliser.
But television replays showed Ricketts was offside when he pounced to score,
and Roeder was furious that the referee's assistant allowed the goal to stand.
'I am concerned that officials cannot do their job,' said Roeder. 'What
annoys me is they are so arrogant and so adamant they have got it right, and yet
we come down the tunnel at the end of the game and see the television pictures
and they are wrong.
'The officials just slide away into the night now, they are not accountable.
I said last season that I am not one for technology, but I am rapidly changing
Roeder was also unhappy that referee Steve Bennett failed to award West Ham a
penalty when skipper Joe Cole went down under a heavy challenge in the Bolton
box after 76 minutes.
He said: 'I think referees need to get to know their players. We all know
that certain players in the game are divers, but Joe Cole is not one of them and
he is very upset.'
The result means West Ham will be bottom of the table on Christmas Day, and in
the Premiership's history no club in that position has ever recovered to avoid
'That is a great motivation for my players to prove everyone wrong,' said
Roeder. 'We are not getting the rub of the green, but I believe we shall finish
the season outside the bottom three.'
Bolton boss Sam Allardyce felt it was about time his team had a decision in
He said: 'People are telling me our goal was half a yard offside but it is
about time something went in our favour because so many decisions have gone
against us this season.
'People tell me these things even themselves out over the course of a season
but I don't believe they ever do, and all I wish for is more consistency from
'Everyone knows what being bottom of the table at Christmas means, so this
result makes us feel a lot better because it puts more pressure on West Ham and
takes some off us - although there is a long way to go.'