LONDON — Andy Carroll scored a 90th-minute equalizer for West Ham to draw with relegation-threatened Stoke 1-1 in the English Premier League and come to teammate Joe Hart's rescue after the goalkeeper's latest error on Monday.
Stoke was close to a huge win in its fight to avoid the drop when Carroll, who had been on the field as a substitute for just four minutes, met a left-wing cross with a crisp volley into the bottom corner.
That strike spared the blushes of Hart, whose fumble allowed Peter Crouch — another second-half substitute — to put Stoke ahead in the 79th at the Olympic Stadium.
A victory for the visitors would have seen them move to within three points of safety and keep West Ham in real danger of going down. As it turned out, Stoke has five points to make up in its final four games if the team is to preserve its top-flight status.
"The goal was a kick in the teeth," Crouch said.
Carroll last played for West Ham more than three months ago, with an ankle injury depriving the team of its target man up front. As usual, he caused havoc after coming on, and his goal is likely to prompt calls for his inclusion in England's World Cup squad as a Plan B for coach Gareth Southgate, fitness permitting.
Whether Hart makes it to Russia is still open to debate.
The goalkeeper has only just got back in the West Ham team after losing his place to Adrian at the end of November. In his first game back, he made a mistake for a goal in a 3-0 loss at Burnley on March 10, and this one against Stoke was almost an exact replica as he fumbled a shot in front of him by Xherdan Shaqiri.
Before Hart had a chance to hack the ball away with his feet, Crouch nipped in to score from close range.
The errors won't help Hart's chance of regaining the England jersey off Jordan Pickford ahead of the World Cup in Russia — if he is included in the 23-man squad for the tournament, that is.
The point left West Ham seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Stoke is likely to need at least three wins from its final four games to stay up.
"It is a blow because we were close to winning," Stoke manager Paul Lambert said. "We're right in the fight, no mistake about it."