West Ham United kept up the pressure on Championship leaders Southampton with a comfortable victory over Cardiff City.
Captain Kevin Nolan guided in a lovely opener, a low right-foot shot across Cardiff keeper David Marshall into the far corner from Nicky Maynard's flick.
Cardiff were a shadow of the team that took Liverpool to penalties in last weekend's Carling Cup final but a Peter Whittingham free-kick hit the post.
George McCartney sealed the win as he fired in a close-range angled shot.
The Northern Ireland defender's first goal since November 2007 helped ensure West Ham move within a point of the top-of-the-table Saints with a game in hand as Sam Allardyce's men look for an immediate Premier League return.
CARDIFF v WEST HAM FACTS
West Ham are unbeaten on eight of their last nine visits to Cardiff
Cardiff have suffered four of their eight defeats this season at home
West Ham have opened the scoring 20 times this season - only Cardiff (22) have done so more in the Championship
The Londoners were always in control of the Sunday lunchtime encounter that saw Cardiff slip out of the play-off zone for the first time since November following a fourth defeat in five Championship games, their worst run of the season.
But the Bluebirds were architects of their own downfall as poor defending contributed to both West Ham's goals as Cardiff suffered a painful hangover from their brave League Cup final exploits at Wembley.
For West Ham's opener, Aron Gunnarsson inadvertently nudged the ball into Maynard's path before the Hammers striker played a lovely ball to Nolan for the midfielder to clip in his eighth goal of the season.
And for their second, full-back McCartney was allowed to run down the left flank, beating Cardiff right-back Kevin McNaughton.
West Ham goals disappoint Mackay
His cross beat the dive of Mark Hudson before ricocheting back into his path off Ben Turner's leg for McCartney to squeeze the ball into the far corner of Marshall's net with an improvised right-footed finish.
Cardiff created half chances early on as Kenny Miller and Gunnarsson fired wide from long-range efforts but Jack Collison and Maynard gave the hosts a warning of what was to come as the visiting pair went close.
West Ham broke the deadlock just before half-time as Cardiff dallied on the edge of their own area as Maynard fed Nolan. The midfielder, who was returning from a three-game ban, opened his body up to beautifully curl a sidefooted effort around Marshall.
The Hammers had chances to double their lead when Ricardo Vaz Te capitalised on another defensive lapse by Cardiff but while his poked shot beat Scottish stopper Marshall, it did not beat Hudson, who cleared the danger.
McNaughton then gifted Maynard a free shot on goal, only for Marshall to get down well to deny the frontman.
Set piece specialist Whittingham came within an inch of throwing Cardiff a lifeline but his 25-yard left-footed free-kick cracked Rob Green's left-hand post with the West Ham keeper beaten.
McCartney's goal 13 minutes from time finished the Welshmen off although Miller did strike the crossbar with a close-range header in stoppage time but Allardyce's side rarely looked troubled.
Full Time The referee blows for the end of the match.
Kenny Miller takes a shot.
Inswinging corner taken by Don Cowie from the left by-line, clearance made by Abdoulaye Faye.
The ball is sent over by Gary O'Neil, Ben Turner makes a clearance.
The ball is crossed by Kevin McNaughton.
The ball is swung over by Don Cowie, blocked by George McCartney.
Carlton Cole takes a shot. Comfortable save by David Marshall.
Haris Vuckic gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on George McCartney. Robert Green takes the free kick.
Aron Gunnarsson takes a shot. George McCartney gets a block in.
Andrew Taylor delivers the ball, clearance by George McCartney.
The ball is sent over by Andrew Taylor, clearance made by James Tomkins.
Unfair challenge on Kevin McNaughton by George McCartney results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Kevin McNaughton.
Kenny Miller takes a shot. Comfortable save by Robert Green.
Shot from just outside the box by Ricardo Vaz Te misses to the left of the target.
Ben Turner concedes a free kick for a foul on Carlton Cole. Mark Noble takes the direct free kick.
Kenny Miller takes a shot. Robert Green makes a comfortable save.
76:12 Goal scored
Goal - George McCartney - Cardiff 0 - 2 West Ham A goal is scored by George McCartney from inside the six-yard box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Cardiff 0-2 West Ham.
George McCartney sends in a cross, clearance by Ben Turner.
Joey O'Brien challenges Andrew Taylor unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by David Marshall.
Substitution Gary O'Neil is brought on as a substitute for Henri Lansbury.
Peter Whittingham produces a cross, Robert Green makes a comfortable save.
Peter Whittingham produces a cross, clearance by Jack Collison.
Kevin McNaughton challenges Ricardo Vaz Te unfairly and gives away a free kick. George McCartney takes the free kick.
Kenny Miller fouled by James Tomkins, the ref awards a free kick. Don Cowie takes the free kick.
The assistant referee flags for offside against Carlton Cole. Free kick taken by Andrew Taylor.
Kenny Miller produces a right-footed shot from just outside the area that goes harmlessly over the target.
A cross is delivered by Joey O'Brien, Andrew Taylor makes a clearance.
Joe Mason fouled by Kevin Nolan, the ref awards a free kick. Peter Whittingham fires a strike on goal direct from the free kick. Andrew Taylor delivers the ball, clearance by Abdoulaye Faye.
Kenny Miller takes a shot. James Tomkins gets a block in.
George McCartney produces a cross.
Carlton Cole challenges Andrew Taylor unfairly and gives away a free kick. David Marshall takes the direct free kick.
Mark Hudson produces a header from inside the area that goes over the crossbar.
Substitution Nicky Maynard leaves the field to be replaced by Carlton Cole.
Joe Mason produces a right-footed shot from inside the area that goes over the bar.
A cross is delivered by Haris Vuckic, clearance made by Joey O'Brien.
Centre by Jack Collison.
The ball is crossed by Nicky Maynard, blocked by Ben Turner.
Aron Gunnarsson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Ricardo Vaz Te. Mark Noble takes the direct free kick. Shot on goal by Ricardo Vaz Te from inside the box goes harmlessly over the target.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Henri Lansbury by Ben Turner. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Mark Noble from right wing, clearance by Peter Whittingham.
Nicky Maynard takes a shot. Save made by David Marshall. David Marshall fouled by Nicky Maynard, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by David Marshall.
Kevin McNaughton fouled by Ricardo Vaz Te, the ref awards a free kick. David Marshall takes the free kick.
Nicky Maynard produces a right-footed shot from the edge of the box and misses to the left of the target.
Don Cowie concedes a free kick for a foul on Jack Collison. James Tomkins takes the direct free kick.
The referee gets the second half started.
45:00 +2:05 Half time
Half Time The match has reached half-time.
Haris Vuckic fouled by Henri Lansbury, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick crossed by Peter Whittingham, clearance made by Kevin Nolan.
Assist by Nicky Maynard.
42:45 Goal scored
Goal - Kevin Nolan - Cardiff 0 - 1 West Ham Kevin Nolan scores a goal from deep inside the penalty area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Cardiff 0-1 West Ham.
George McCartney produces a cross, Andrew Taylor makes a clearance. Shot on goal by Jack Collison from just inside the area clears the crossbar.
Effort from outside the penalty box by Aron Gunnarsson goes wide right of the target.
The ball is delivered by Peter Whittingham, Abdoulaye Faye makes a clearance.
Substitution Haris Vuckic comes on in place of Rudy Gestede.
Kenny Miller sends in a cross.
The ball is delivered by Ricardo Vaz Te, clearance by Mark Hudson.
Joey O'Brien sends in a cross, clearance by Kenny Miller.
Outswinging corner taken by Jack Collison from the right by-line, Rudy Gestede manages to make a clearance.
Joe Mason handles the ball and concedes a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Abdoulaye Faye.
The assistant referee signals for offside against Kenny Miller. Robert Green takes the indirect free kick.
The ball is sent over by Henri Lansbury. Shot from deep inside the area by Nicky Maynard clears the bar.
Effort on goal by Ricardo Vaz Te from just inside the penalty area goes over the target.
Rudy Gestede challenges George McCartney unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Robert Green.
Joey O'Brien crosses the ball, Effort on goal by Jack Collison from inside the area goes harmlessly over the bar.
Kenny Miller has an effort at goal from outside the area which misses left.
Centre by Rudy Gestede.
Nicky Maynard challenges Aron Gunnarsson unfairly and gives away a free kick. Peter Whittingham restarts play with the free kick.
The ball is sent over by Joe Mason, Effort on goal by Don Cowie from deep inside the area goes harmlessly over the bar.
Inswinging corner taken by Mark Noble, David Marshall makes a save.
The ball is crossed by Don Cowie.
The referee blows for offside. Indirect free kick taken by David Marshall.
Nicky Maynard challenges Kevin McNaughton unfairly and gives away a free kick. Peter Whittingham takes the free kick.
Kenny Miller takes a shot. James Tomkins gets a block in.
The ball is swung over by Kenny Miller, save by Robert Green. Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Don Cowie.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Henri Lansbury on Peter Whittingham. David Marshall takes the direct free kick.
The game kicks-off.
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