Andy Carroll climbed off the treatment table to score a dramatic last-minute equaliser and deny Stoke a precious win in their battle for Premier League survival.
The striker, out injured since the turn of the year, was sent on as a last throw of the dice by manager David Moyes with West Ham trailing to Peter Crouch's goal.
And within three minutes Carroll fired home from the edge of the area to snatch a 1-1 draw which edged the Hammers closer to safety and left Stoke in serious trouble.
England boss Gareth Southgate was in attendance to witness two Three Lions strikers of old take centre stage.
But Southgate was running the rule over opposing goalkeepers Joe Hart and Jack Butland - and it was Stoke stopper Butland who at least won that showdown with Hart badly at fault for Crouch's goal.
Hart did repel early shots from Moritz Bauer and Mame Biram Diouf, while Butland kept out Arthur Masuaku's cross-shot with his legs and tipped Aaron Cresswell's free-kick wide.
Butland then made a vital save to keep out West Ham's best chance of the first half, not that he knew much about it as Marko Arnautovic's point-blank volley hit his old team-mate in the face.
Butland got down well to hold a low Mark Noble drive as a tepid opening half drew to a close.
Shortly before the match Hammers vice-chairman Karren Brady had taken to Twitter to plug her new TV show, which started the same time as kick-off.
At half-time many fans at the London Stadium were probably wishing they had taken her advice, stayed at home and tuned in instead.
But at least one man was grateful for a lack of incident. Referee Michael Oliver was in charge of his first match since he caused a storm by sending off Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon against Real Madrid last week.
Oliver was busier shortly after the break, though, as West Ham twice had the ball in the back of the net only to see both goals disallowed.
First Arnautovic converted Cresswell's cross with a deft header but he had strayed marginally offside.
Then a low Edimilson Fernendes drive flew past Butland but Arnautovic, this time clearly offside, was in the keeper's way and may even have got the faintest of touches.
Butland made another decent save to palm away Cresswell's long-range effort, but when Hart was called into action from similar distance he failed.
The Manchester City loanee fumbled Xherden Shaqiri's shot and was too slow to react, allowing Crouch to stick out a long leg and stab the ball home.
But enter Carroll, and in the final minute the big frontman stroked home a crisp first-time shot after the ball was played into his feet by Cresswell.
It could have been worse for Stoke but Javier Hernandez had an even later goal disallowed for a foul by Carroll.
As it is they remain in grave danger, five points from safety with four matches to play.