We desperately needed a goal with the score level at 1-1 and Arsenal beating Wigan at Highbury but the home side beat us to it when Benayoun cut in from the right, took Nigel Reo-Coker's backheel in his stride and finished high into the corner. It left us needing two goals in 10 minutes and it wasn't to be.
After the injury scares and several bouts of illness suffered overnight, the team that trotted out at Upton Park for this crucial encounter was not the tale of the unexpected it might have been.
Stephen Kelly came in for Paul Stalteri, with Edgar Davids taking the place of Danny Murphy. Robbie Keane led the team out after recovering sufficiently from the ankle injury that forced him off last week.
It was seriously noisy inside the ground and the old stadium nearly rocked when Nigel Reo Coker's shot was deflected wide after two minutes. Our boys were a little slow into their collective stride and Yossi Benayoun spurned a clear cut opportunity to open the scoring when Teddy Sheringham set him through clear to the left of goal and he rolled his effort wide.
The relief was short-lived and, just before the ten minute mark Carl Fletcher tried his luck from distance and drilled the ball into the bottom left hand corner to put the home side into what you would have to admit was a deserved lead.
Teemu Tainio attempted to respond at the other end, but it was Sheringham who was the architect of the next chance, flashing his effort across the face of Paul Robinson's goal. There was another chance for Benayoun when Michael Dawson got caught in possession and, once again, Sheringham was the provider, but the midfielder took too long and was thankfully closed down.
Aaron Lennon breathed some fire into our attack when he linked up with Keane and burst onto the return ball, only for his final pass not to reach Jermain Defoe and be turned behind for a corner. From Michael Carrick's set piece, Tainio reacted first and his powerful header flew over the crossbar.
There was another major alert just after the half hour mark when Robinson picked up a back pass, believing it to have deflected before, on 35 minutes Defoe marked his return to his former stomping ground with a superb drive beyound Shaka Hislop.
It was Carrick who picked him out and the little hitman turned and struck like the goalscoring viper he so often is. It was a first in six starts for the England World Cup hopeful.
Robinson then did brilliantly to keep the scores level when Benayoun's lowish cross was met on the volley by Shaun Newton and Robbo was forced to stoop low and shovel away the shot with both hands.
Six minutes into the second half Sheringham kept alive a wayward cross and pinged it back into the area for the waiting Bobby Zamora - who was tripped by Tainio. Referee Mr Foy pointed to the spot, Sheringham stepped up and Robbo saved low to his right.
A little bit of luck we hoped would go a long way.
A portion of it was used up when Zamora found himself through on goal and Lee Young-Pyo managed to disrupt his passage. West Ham continued to push forward, Carrick could not carry on and Andy Reid was drafted into left midfield with Davids switching to the centre.
Alan Pardew opted to swap Sheringham for Marlon Harewood, but next in the action was Keane, who tested Hislop from the right of the area. Whatever the merits of Harewood it was something of a relief to see the back of Teddy, who was the string-puller in chief throughout the game.
A misplaced free-kick nearly led to an opening with Tainio drilling across goal before Kelly fizzed a low cross over from the other side without a finishing touch being applied.
Lee was replaced by Lee Barnard as news filtered through of Arsenal taking a 4-2 lead and effectively sealing their game.
The next worst thing happened ten minutes from time when Benayoun made it unlikely we would win our game by jinking in the area and dispatching past Robinson.
Defending then became an afterthought as the boys piled forward in search of saving the game but one goal, let alone two, proved too high a mountain to climb.
A late goal from Yossi Benayoun saw our dreams of fourth place fade and die at Upton Park on Sunday.