The Italian must have feared his night was going to end with a thirdsuccessive stalemate after yet another Jekyll and Hyde performance fromhis side.
Zola had seen two players limp off with hamstring injuries one ofthem Carlton Cole during an insipid first-half display, but he wasrescued by the first of two near-farcical penalty decisions by refereeSteve Bennett, with Mark Noble's spot-kick handing the hosts anundeserved lead at half-time.
They think it's all Zola. Zavon Hines nets the winner in the third minute of injury time much to the relief of the West Ham boss
After watching Robert Green then save Ashley Young's penalty asthe Kent official awarded another debatable spot kick with thesecond-half barely four minutes old Zola must have thought it was hisluck was on the turn.
Not so. Young then curled a cross over Green to level. But withVilla running out of steam during their fourth successive away day,West Ham sensed their chance.
After Habib Beye was ordered off for receiving his second yellowcard, Zola's team poured forwards. It seemed as though time woulddefeat them, only for Scott Parker to burst forward in a last desperateattempt to force the issue.
His low ball eluded Villa's defenders and appeared to be stuck underHines's feet. The youngster however, managed to twist, turn and forcethe ball in-between James Collins and Richard Dunne to leave BradFriedel clutching at thin air.
This first home league victory of the season lifted West Ham out ofthe bottom three, moving them up to the heady heights of 16th as Villasimply ran out of legs.
Zola said: 'Every time I play Zavon he has been very good. My congratulations to him. Today he has given us a fantastic victory.
Late show: Hines is mobbed after his injury-time goal gives West Ham the win
'He has done well in every game for me. He's not a surprise anymore. I'd have been delighted to have scored that. He was in betweenthree defenders and he showed a lot of composure. He deserves thespotlight.'
But Hines was not the only one in receipt of praise. Green savedfrom the penalty spot and produced a stunning one-handed tip-over fromStiliyan Petrov's volley to keep Villa at bay in the first-half whenthey were on top.
However, referee Bennett's performance will undoubtedly come underthe spotlight. Three Villa players received cautions over the incidentthat led to the first penalty award of the night.
After Guillermo Franco played in Hines on the left, Beye went totrack him. The Villa right back seemed to stop the ball with his feetonly for Bennett to point to the spot. Noble fired into the roof of thenet with Villa boss Martin O'Neill having to march on to the pitch todrag Collins and Young away from the argument.
Four minutes into the second half, Bennett tried to even up matterswith his second dubious decision of the evening. Manuel Da Costa rosehigh to nod clear and his legs brushed into Collins.
Young missed his second penalty of the season, Green guessingcorrectly by diving to his left. 'I saw only one penalty out there,'said Zola, ignoring the charity afforded his own side.
'I couldn't understand the second. Not one person could believetheir eyes. Everyone was casual and walking back when he gave it.'
Young wasted little time earning himself a reprieve for his missedpenalty. He was hugging the left touchline, 35 yards from goal when heswung over a cross that dippedunder the bar. 'I've seen him do it too many times to think it is a fluke,' said O'Neill.
West Ham face £2m bill after former boss Alan Curbishley wins constructive dismissal case Gianfranco Zola insists he didn't go at it Hammers and tongs with furious Guillermo Franco Sunderland boss Steve Bruce is wrong to comment on our players - West Ham No 2 Steve Clarke leaps to defence of Herita Ilunga WEST HAM FC