Albion 3, West Ham 1

February is the shortest month, but it could take Albion a long way towards Premier League survival.

Halfway through a crucial period it is so far so good.

A quartet of fixtures against other teams engaged in the heavily populated scrap for safety were always going to be significant.

The end of January and the transfer window coincided with a useful point at Southampton.

That has been made to look better by both the first win of 2018 and Southampton's victory, also with three goals scored, in another six-pointer at West Brom.

If Albion can repeat the haul of four points from the last two matches in the next two, at third-bottom Stoke on Saturday and fourth-bottom but fast-improving Swansea at the Amex at the end of the month, Chris Hughton's side will be in good shape for the ten games that will ultimately determine their fate.

Considering half of those are against the top six, including three of the last four, they need to establish a cushion.

Beating West Ham had a dual benefit, because it also keeps them looking nervously over their shoulders in mid-table, just three points above the drop zone.

You suspect they will be fine once a crippling casualty list containing, among others, Marko Arnautovic, Manuel Lanzini and Andy Carroll, clears but the more teams that remain embroiled in the fight the better.

The Argus:

West Ham's bench was a reminder of what Albion have been up against all season. Even with a multitude of absentees it included Joe Hart, Winston Reid, Jose Fonte, Michail Antonio and new £8 million striker Jordan Hugill.

It takes many more than two transfer windows as a promoted club to establish that kind of strength in depth in the face of adversity.

The Seagulls punished themselves by climbing inside the top ten with the 3-0 win at West Ham in October and another away victory at Swansea at the beginning of November.

Over-achievement induces false expectations, hence rising fears and criticism from a small minority of the fanbase about Hughton's selections, tactics and substitutions during the run of one win in 14 games.

If, instead of veering between eighth and 16th, Albion had remained consistently just above the relegation zone, nobody would have batted an eyelid.

Nobody except those for whom the goalposts appear to have moved from the pre-season consensus that 17th would be a triumph, as it still would be.

The most encouraging aspect, aside from the results, of the last two games is how Hughton's players have responded to the pressure of the situation as the finishing line draws closer.

The margin of victory at the London Stadium in October was slightly bigger but this latest display, with home advantage, was more convincing.

The Argus: Fresh faces and clinical finishing help. The arrival of Jurgen Locadia and return of Leo Ulloa has induced an extra edge from Glenn Murray (above centre). He is back in a rich vein of form and will not give up the No.9 role to Ulloa lightly.

His early breakthrough came with an excellent assist from referee Roger East. Pascal Gross produced the pass for Murray to slot his fifth goal in seven games past Adrian but East had played a telling advantage by then when Anthony Knockaert was caught by Aaron Cresswell before finding Gross.

West Ham were level by the interval, courtesy of a wonderful equaliser from Javier Hernandez. He began a three-man move of one-touch passing with Mark Noble and Joao Mario before shimmying his way clear of desperate challenges inside the box to execute a lethal finish into the roof of the net.

It was nearly as good as Willian's second goal for Chelsea in Albion's previous home game but better followed.

The match was evenly poised when West Ham cleared a corner as far as Jose Izquierdo outside the righthand edge of the penalty area.

The Colombian despatched a stunning shot, with curl, pace and precision past the fingertips of the diving Adrian. West Ham manager David Moyes called it "world class".

It had the same effect as Albion's second goal at West Ham, scored also and only slightly less spectacularly by the unpredictable South American left-winger.

West Ham wilted, the Seagulls grew and killed them off with another fine goal, Pascal Gross latching onto Davy Propper's pass to strike crisply from inside the 'D'.

It was the German No. 10's fifth of the season and first in seven games, during which the rigours of the Premier League began to take a toll.

Now the heat is more on Stoke, as it was for Southampton, their first defeat under Hughton's Norwich predecessor Paul Lambert at Bournemouth dropping them back into the bottom three.