Jordan Ayew earns Aston Villa a point at home to West Ham
Jordan Ayew rescued a point for battling Aston Villa as they were held to a 1-1 draw by West Ham.
Remi Garde is still searching for his first win as Villa boss despite coming from behind to close the gap to safety.
Aaron Cresswell ended the Hammers' goal drought with their first strike in 388 minutes but Ayew's second-half penalty levelled.
Villa huffed and puffed without real quality and Rudy Gestede wasted two golden chances while Jordan Veretout was denied by Adrian.
A draw means they will have to win half of their remaining 20 games to meet boss Garde's survival target of 10 victories.
They remain bottom and sit nine points from safety while the disappointing Hammers are on course for a season of mediocrity in mid-table.
Slaven Bilic's side are now winless in eight games and they were second best for most of the afternoon and Villa came closet to opening the scoring on 17 minutes.
They had already begun to test the visitors problems before Gestede, back for Scott Sinclair, directed Veretout's brilliant cross wide from eight yards.
Villa produced their most consistent half in the league this season and stretched the visitors with some snappy football.
Garde's influence, almost two months after arriving, was evident with the manager trying to grant his players freedom in their dire situation.
Adrian saved Leandro Bacuna's drive and then Gestede's follow up as Villa pressed without making a dent.
In contrast the Hammers were limp going forward and it was easy to see why Bilic's side had failed to score in their previous three matches.
Mauro Zarate had seen an early drive turned wide by Brad Guzan but it remained their sole chance as they continued to waste openings.
The Hammers were dangerous on the break but continued to falter in the final third with Enner Valencia and Michail Antonio guilty.
Antonio blazed over two minutes before the break but the Hammers did strike in first-half stoppage time to stun the hosts.
First, Valencia was given time on the edge of the box and, although he scuffed his shot, Cheikhou Kouyate deflected it onto the top of the bar.
It was a let-off for Villa but one they failed to heed when, a minute later, Cresswell was given time and space to unleash a rasping 20-yard drive which flew low past Guzan.
But Villa should have levelled four minutes after the break when Gestede planted a header over from seven yards.
He was then denied by Adrian, who had already saved well from Veretout, on 58 minutes as Villa pressed.
The keeper was finally beaten in the 62nd minute, though, after the hosts deservedly levelled.
Gestede managed to wriggle ahead of Angelo Ogbonna in a sprint to the ball and the West Ham man dragged him down inside the box.
Ayew sent Adrian the wrong way from the spot to breathe life into Villa Park.
Desperately searching for their first win since the opening day Villa continued to boss the game with the Hammers soaking up the pressure.
And the hosts came close to a winner with 15 minutes left when James Collins nodded Alan Hutton's header off the line.
But Guzan had to ensure a point at the death when he turned Valencia's deflected free kick wide.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
@karren_brady: " At Aston villa...never seen a home team get SO excited about winning a corner before!!" - Karren Brady makes friends on her return to the midlands.
Brad Guzan: 6
Alan Hutton: 6
Joleon Lescott: 6
Jores Okore: 6
Leandro Bacuna: 6
Ashley Westwood: 6
Carlos Sanchez: 6
Idrissa Gana: 6
Jordan Veretout: 6
Jordan Ayew: 7
Rudy Gestede: 6
Carles Gil: 6
Adama Traore: 6
James Tomkins: 7
James Collins: 7
Angelo Ogbonna: 6
Aaron Cresswell: 7
Pedro Obaing: 7
Mark Noble: 6
Cheikhou Kouyate: 6
Michail Antonio: 6
Enner Valencia: 6
Mauro Zarate: 6
Carl Jenkinson: 6
Alex Song: 6
Reece Oxford: 6
Jordan Ayew. The striker has been Villa's best hope since boss Remi Garde took charge in November and underlined his importance again. His cool penalty gave the hosts a lifeline in the second half but they could not build on the goal and had to settle for a point. The former Lorient man has scored three goals in his last five games to at least give Villa some Christmas cheer and they will need him to maintain his form to survive.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
West Ham had rarely looked like opening the scoring in the first half before Aaron Cresswell's rocket. The left back ended the Hammers' 388-minute goal drought in style to give them the lead at the break. Cresswell was left unattended on the left when he advanced onto the ball and did not hesitate to fire a low blast across Brad Guzan. His moment of quality was out of keeping with a scrappy game.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Apart from Cresswell's bolt from the blue West Ham rarely looked like scoring which will be a concern to Slaven Bilic. With the pace of Enner Valenica and Michail Antonio at their disposal the Hammers should have stretched Villa but never used their weapons properly. Too many times they broke and then ran into dead ends without hurting the hosts and showed exactly why they had struggled to goals before their trip to Villa Park.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Remi Garde will be delighted with Villa's efforts but he will know they need more than just draws to survive. Villa go to fellow strugglers Norwich on Monday needing to win as defeat would leave them 12 points behind the Canaries. Bilic's side were unimpressive and look set for a mid-table finish this season as they struggled to consistently threaten a side who are winless in the league since the opening day. The boss must improve them if he is going to lead them to the Olympic Stadium on a high.
Norwich v Aston Villa (Barclays Premier League, Monday, December 28)
West Ham v Southampton (Barclays Premier League, Monday, December 28)