While West Ham fans blew bubbles inside the Boleyn Ground, referee Jonathan Moss blew any hopes the Clarets harboured of surviving in the Premier League.
However, an inability to score in 569 minutes of football, a new club record, hasn’t aided Burnley’s quest to remain in the top tier.
Moss, who officiated defeats to West Brom, QPR and Swansea City earlier in the campaign, deemed Michael Duff’s challenge on Cheikhou Kouyate a ‘professional foul’ in the 23rd minute, subsequently awarding a penalty before brandishing a red card.
While the veteran defender, in his testimonial year, trudged off the pitch in disbelief, eventually slumping in to a seat in the upper tier of the West Stand, Mark Noble stepped up to give the Hammers the lead from 12 yards.
While American TV station NBC supported Moss’s decision, replays suggested that the punishment was ridiculously harsh, with skipper Jason Shackell and Scott Arfield covering as the Senegalese midfielder toppled under the challenge.
Down to 10 men, the visitors fell behind when Noble sent Heaton - who saved from Ross Barkley at Goodison Park weeks ago - the wrong way from the spot.
Ecuadorian striker Enner Valencia, who supplied the penetrative pass to Kouyate, inexplicably failed to touch the Hammers ahead with just minutes on the clock from Aaron Cresswell’s centre, but Sean Dyche’s side built a foothold in the game up until the ‘talking point’.
Danny Ings, without a goal in four months, flashed a right-footed effort across the face of goal from an awkward angle when latching on to Kieran Trippier’s pass while Ashley Barnes needed to find an inch in height to connect with Matt Taylor’s tremendous delivery from the left hand side.
The away side’s best opportunity to open the scoring arrived midway through the half, and again it fell to Ings. Burnley’s leading scorer moved in to the space behind teenager Reece Burke to meet another enticing Taylor cross, but the striker powered his header over the bar.
After the hosts converted their first penalty of the season, Sam Allardyce’s men began to capitalise on their numerical advantage.
Heaton pulled off a remarkable save to deny Valencia from point blank range and showed equally impressive agility to turn Morgan Amalfitano’s half-volley over the bar moments later.
The visitors, with just one win in 13 league outings ahead of the fixture, went agonisingly close to levelling when Adrian - made famous for his role as Sylvester Stallone’s wife in the Rocky films - saved Ashley Barnes’s header in unconventional fashion from Trippier’s set-piece.
And, as the half came to a close, Trippier swung a set-piece over the angle.
As expected, with the Clarets hanging on to their Premier League status by a thread, the Hammers asserted their authority on the fixture and made their extra man count.
Kevin Nolan flicked wide of the near post from Carl Jenkinson’s assist while Ings could only find the side-netting with a sight of goal at the opposite end of the pitch.
Amalfitano bent an attempt around the upright from Nolan’s incisive flick as West Ham looked to extend their cushion, before Taylor almost equalised against his former employers.
The 33-year-old, Allardyce’s first signing as Hammers boss, swivelled inside the area from Arfield’s pass only to see his low effort strike the legs of Adrian and squirm to safety.
Nolan’s drive ricocheted off the arm of Heaton as United continued to probe and Valencia, under pressure, forced the rebound wide.
Substitute Carlton Cole steered a header over the top when connecting with Stewart Downing’s precise cross with the outside of his left boot before the striker was thwarted by Heaton from an acute angle.
James Collins hoisted over the bar as the home side continued to press and Shackell stooped low to head Kouyate’s fierce drive off the line, but the hosts failed to add to their advantage.
The Clarets now face an impossible task to beat the drop, sinking eight points adrift of safety with only three fixtures remaining.