The Hammers captain struck twice in three minutes as Sam Allardyce's side grabbed three vital points in their fight against relegation - only their third away win this term
Both sides were level at half-time but the Hammers skipper struck twice in quick succession after the break, as Sam Allardyce's side earned themselves an important win in their fight against relegation.
West Ham have now lifted themselves out of the relegation zone afer earning seven points from their last three games.
Villa, meanwhile, have won just one of their last eight home matches in all competitions and were twice denied by the frame of the goal as Marc Albrighton and Christian Benteke struck the woodwork.
|VIEW FROM VILLA PARK
|By Tom Davis at Villa Park
It was the perfect performance from the Hammers today, if ever there was one. Fans of both sides endured a dismal first half that provided nothing in the way of entertainment.
But Kevin Nolan’s two quick goals after the restart were welcome for the game as a spectacle and, significantly, were enough to move West Ham out of the relegation zone.
Aston Villa hit the bar twice as they looked to bounce back but otherwise didn’t test the Hammers' goal enough. It's back-to-back wins now for Sam Allardyce’s side and, with three in five, they’re hitting terrific form at just the right time.
The 31-year-old midfielder has now scored seven goals against Villa – more than he has against any other Premier League side – and has netted four times in his last two appearances.
Gabby Agbonlahor returned to Paul Lambert's Villa XI following injury, while Allardyce replaced suspended striker Carroll with Carlton Cole, who spent the 2004-05 season on loan at Villa.
But it was another former Villa player who had the first half's best chance. Matt Jarvis sprung the hosts' offside trap and slid the ball across goal for Stewart Downing, who somehow failed to connect with the ball when he would have had a tap-in.
And Downing's composure deserted him again when he was well-placed, before Jarvis fired the ball into the side-netting from close range.
Villa, however, offered very little in the first 40 minutes, with Benteke's touch letting him down when he was through on goal, though Ashley Westwood's fine volley went narrowly wide just before the break.
It took West Ham just 18 seconds to take the lead after the restart. Downing tricked his way past Ryan Bertrand down the right and crossed for Nolan, whose cheeky flick took a deflection and looped over goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
And Nolan made it 2-0 on 48 minutes. The midfielder did superbly to rob Fabian Delph of possession on the edge of the West Ham box before carrying the ball into the area and slotting calmly past Guzan.
Albrighton was quickly sent on by Lambert and the winger smashed the ball against the post with a vicious 66th-minute strike. The rebound struck Adrian and went out for a corner, which came to nothing.
Substitute Albrighton then crossed for Benteke, whose first-time attempt hit the crossbar.
West Ham were camped inside their final third for the remainder of the game and had to defend a series of corners. They held on, however, for a morale-boosting victory - and one that could prove vital come the end of the season.