West Ham United’s European expectations took a nose-dive for the second time inside four days with a tired, toiling, trying two-goal defeat at the hands of Fulham.

Following the Hammers heart-breaking late, late 2-0 defeat in their UEFA Europa League, quarter-final, first-leg tie at Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday, David Moyes had returned to London Stadium looking to reinforce his back-up route into Europe next season.

But after the wasteful Michail Antonio produced one of the misses of the season in the opening minutes, goals in each half from Andreas Pereira ensured a Fulham victory that denied the Scot the opportunity to climb into the European qualification berths with just five games left to play.

Kicking-off in eighth place, Moyes knew victory would move his side into sixth spot and keep them in the mix for a fourth successive European campaign regardless of Thursday night’s outcome in the London Stadium rematch with the German Bundesliga leaders.

But it was not to be against the canny Cottagers, who recorded their first double over West Ham since 1965/66.

The Scot made a trio of changes as Edson Álvarez returned from suspension, while Nayef Aguerd and Danny Ings earned call-ups in place of substitutes Tomáš Souček, Aaron Cresswell and Kurt Zouma.

And West Ham should have got off to the perfect start when Lucas Paquetá chipped an early ball into the path off Vladimír Coufal, whose run towards goal was thwarted by Bernd Leno’s dive into his studs, only for Antonio to send an imperfect eight-yard shot sailing high over the empty goal.

With the gasps of disbelief still subsiding at the sight of the Jamaican international’s incredible miss, Mohammed Kudus then curled an 18-yarder over the left-hand angle before Paquetá ripped an angled shot into the side netting.

Without victory in their last three games, the Cottagers  –  sitting five places and five points below West Ham – made just one switch from the side that had lost against Newcastle United last Saturday, with Sâsa Lukić coming in for substitute Tom Cairney, who found himself on the bench alongside former  Hammer, Issa Diop.

After surviving that early home onslaught, though, Fulham – who beat Moyes' men 5-0 at Craven Cottage in December - took the lead with their first attack of a breathless opening.

On nine minutes, Pereira found Alex Iwobi on the halfway line and, although Konstantinos Mavropanos should have dealt with the routine, lofted pass towards the penalty spot, the Greek international miserably miscontrolled.

Still continuing his run from halfway, Pereira now arrived in the Hammers area, where he took full advantage of that error to lash the stray ball past skipper Łukasz Fabiański from eight yards.

Having just bagged his second goal of the season, the inrushing, four-cap Brazilian international almost netted his third but he could only steer Willian’s low left-wing cross wide from ten yards but his moment would still come after the break.

Meanwhile, Palhinha’s 20-yarder also forced Fabiański into a full-length save before James Ward-Prowse’s thumping long-ranger sent Leno into a low stop at the other end but, by now, West Ham had lost all of their early momentum.

As the half-hour mark approached, Coufal found himself deep in Fulham territory, once more, but this time he sliced behind from 12 yards while Palhinha also curled wide of the right post.

Seven minutes before the break - with the crowd breaking into applause in remembrance of No.38 Dylan Tombides, who tragically lost his battle with testicular aged just 20, in 2014 - Fabiański was forced into three saves in quick succession.

Firstly, a slick raid into the West Ham area climaxed with the Polish stopper foiling a tightly-angled shot from Willian at the far post before then thwarting a point-blank header and a shot from Rodrigo Muniz.

Ings and Ward-Prowse both sent headers over the bar, while a late Iwobi effort sailed across the face of the Hammers keeper’s goal as West Ham departed at the break, trailing to that early Pereira opener.

Ten minutes into the second period, another Mavropanos mistake let in Iwobi but fortunately for the central defender, Fabiański was on hand to divert the low, angled 15-yarder beyond his far post with his outstretched right glove.

That was the cue for Kurt Zouma to replace the struggling Greek who had also been clattered by Muniz and, shortly afterwards, a clash between two boys from Brazil saw the sliding Pereira booked for a high challenge on compatriot, Paquetá.

Quite simply, despite edging possession, leggy, lethargic, lacklustre West Ham were now going absolutely nowhere and, midway through the second period, moments after Ings had skied over, Soucêk and Ben Johnson replaced Ward-Prowse and Coufal.

Those newly-arrived Hammers were still finding their feet on the Stratford turf, when Paquetá ran into a cul-de-sac and, with Fulham winning possession deep inside their own half, a slick 72nd-minute break saw Pereira feed Muniz, who then played an angled pass to Iwobi in the right-hand channel.

Just like he had done with his first-half opener, Pereira continued his run to the edge of the six-yard box, where he slotted home Iwobi’s inch-perfect low cross to double Fulham’s lead in what proved to be his last act of the afternoon.

Two goals to the good with a quarter-hour remaining, Marco Silva withdrew the architects of the Cottagers victory as Pereira and Iwobi retired in place of centurion Harry Wilson – making his 100th league outing for Fulham – and Bobby De Cordova-Reed, who wasted no time in receiving a yellow card for taking out Álvarez.

Replacing Antonio, Moyes gave young George Earthy his second appearance in Claret and Blue but sadly the 19-year-old’s Premier League debut was over as soon as it began, when he crashed to the ground following a worrying aerial collision with team-mate Álvarez before eventually being wheeled away on the medical cart to applause from players and fans alike.

Moyes confirmed post-match that the young substitute was thankfully conscious and on his way to hospital for precautionary checks but on an already frustrating afternoon for the East End, there was still time for those still inside the stadium to witness the petulant Paquetá make it a dozen yellow cards in Claret and Blue – plus two for Brazil – this season for kicking out at Lukić.

The suspended Paquetá must already sit out Thursday evening’s second leg against Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday (8pm) when the Hammers look to overturn another two-goal deficit and, certainly, Moyes and the sell-out crowd will be hoping that West Ham’s batteries are fully recharged in four days’ time.

West Ham United: Fabiański, Coufal (Johnson 69), Emerson, Mavropanos (Zouma 60), Aguerd, Álvarez, Ward-Prowse (Souček 69), Kudus, Paquetá, Ings, Antonio (Earthy 82) (Cornet 90). Unused subs: Anang, Cresswell, Ogbonna, Mubama.

Fulham: Leno, Castagne, Robinson, Bassey, Adarabioyo, Lukić, Palhinha (Reed 90+7), Pereira (De Cordova-Reid 74), Iwobi (Wilson 74), Willian (Traoré 90+1), Muniz (Broja 90+1). Unused subs: Rodák, Jiménez, Cairney, Diop.

Booked: Pereira (61), De Cordova-Reid (81), Paquetá (90+7).

Referee: Stuart Attwell.