West Ham climbed up to second in the Championship after a 1-0 win at Brighton tonight.

The Hammers produced a workmanlike performance which was short on inspiration but their dogged efforts were enough to take the three points. Captain Kevin Nolan struck the early winner when he nicked the ball off Liam Bridcutt and fired into the net.

The Seagulls had more than their share of possession and came close to an equaliser in the first half when Craig Mackail-Smith tested Manuel Almunia. But Brighton could not break down the visitors’ impressive defence as the Hammers bounced back from their defeat to Southampton.

West Ham made three changes to the side for their first visit to Brighton’s new Amex stadium.

The Hammers brought in Mark Noble for Sam Baldock following the defeat at the Saints last week.

Jack Collison started in place of the injured Henri Lansbury. Joey O’Brien also returned for Matt Taylor with Julien Faubert moving into an attacking role.

Brighton handed debuts to goalkeeper Steve Harper and Gonzalo Jara for the televised clash.

There was a cracking atmosphere at the sold out stadium and the home supporters almost celebrated an early goal when Mackail-Smith raced clear but he fired wide of Almunia’s post.

The Hammers opened the scoring after 17 minutes with their first opportunity of the game. Skipper Nolan robbed the ball off Bridcutt and the former Newcastle midfielder fired an effort past the despairing dive of Harper.

It was against the run of play and Brighton had certainly tried to play more football during the opening 25 minutes of the contest.

The Seagulls had a chance to put some pressure on the Irons from a free-kick outside the box but Matt Sparrow’s strike lacked power and rolled easily into Almunia’s arms.

West Ham created another opportunity after 35 minutes but Faubert’s cross was headed harmlessly over the bar by Nolan.

Brighton were struggling to test the visitors after a bright start but they at least mustered an effort when a cross was headed wide of the target by Ashley Barnes.

The Irons came under some pressure towards the end of the first half but they defended strongly to keep Gus Poyet’s side at bay.

Craig Noone was a real threat down the right wing and he cut inside just before the break and lashed a shot just past Almunia’s post.

Brighton came so close to an equaliser in the final minute of the half but Mackail-Smith’s volley was palmed away by Arsenal keeper Almunia.

Sam Allardyce made his first change early on in the second half when Freddi Sears was introduced in place of Papa Bouba Diop.

The Seagulls were still looking the more dangerous side in the opening stages of the second half but they were just lacking the final pass.

Brighton were not far away from the target when Bridcutt launched an ambitious 25-yard strike but it floated narrowly past the post.

Allardyce made another substitution with less than half an hour remaining when he brought on Freddi Piquionne for John Carew.

The visitors should have killed off the contest in the 88th minute when Noble released Faubert but his shot was heading wide when it was headed out by a defender.

Brighton were given eight minutes of stoppage time to find an equaliser due to the lengthy break in play for Gary Dicker's injury. But the Irons were relatively comfortable as they closed to within three points of league leaders Southampton.

Brighton: Harper; Jara, Greer, Dunk, Painter; Bridcutt, Dicker (Harley, 84), Sparrow (Buckley, 71), Noone; Barnes (Hoskins, 59), Mackail-Smith

West Ham: Almunia; Reid, McCartney, Faye, O'Brien; Nolan, Collison, Noble, Faubert (Baldock, 93), Bouba Diop (Sears, 54); Carew (Piquionne, 65)

Referee: Kevin Friend

Attendance: 20,686