Southampton’s Under-18s exited the FA Youth Cup at the semi-final stage after falling to a 6-1 defeat against a strong West Ham United side at London Stadium.
Quickfire first half goals from Divin Mubama and Callum Marshall saw West Ham race into a two-goal lead after 13 minutes.
Saints grew into the half but trailed at the break without finding a goal back in the tie.
Mubama added a third shortly after the break before Dom Ballard pulled a goal back, but further strikes from Gideon Kodua and Favour Fawunmi rounded out the game either side of Mubama's hat-trick.
With a place in the final against Arsenal at stake, Saints fielded a strong side with just one change from their quarter-final victory - Alex Stepien-Iwumene replaced Joe Andrews in the centre of midfield.
Going forward they were boosted by the return of Dom Ballard, who had been out of action for several weeks through injury, as he lined up in attack alongside Kamari Doyle.
In the opening exchanges it was clear that both sides were wary of making any early errors with a handful of nervy touches exchanged in the first few minutes.
The hosts started the strongest and had the first chance of the game through Lewis Orford, whose shot from range was parried well by Adli Mohamed before Marshall fired the rebound over on the half volley.
Saints captain Jem Hewlett was next to make an important defensive contribution as he was alert to make a strong challenge inside the area to clear an Ollie Scarles cross.
West Ham’s early pressure paid off, however, as two strikes in quick succession saw them race into a two-goal lead.
Star-man Mubama opened the scoring as he rushed in at the near post to poke home a low cross from captain Gideon Kodua, before Marshall doubled the lead two minutes later on a counter attack as he drilled home from the edge of the area.
Saints had a hill to climb but slowly settled into the occasion and came close to finding one goal back as Sonnie Davis had a shot saved by Mason Terry after being found waiting at the far post.
Up the other end, Mohamed prevented the game from getting out of reach as he rectified a loose pass to deny Mubama with a strong save with his feet.
There were more defensive heroics in the 32nd minute as Mohamed made another save to deny Marshall from getting a second goal, with Stepien-Iwumene racing back to clear the rebound off the line.
As the first-half moved towards its conclusion, Mohamed spread himself well again to deny Kodua on 38 minutes.
Just before half time, Jayden Meghoma had his side’s best attempt of the game to that point as gained possession deep and drove past West Ham challenges to reach the edge of the area before firing a stinging drive that forced Terry to palm away to his left.
Knowing that they needed a fast start in the second period, Saints created the first chance after the break when a lofted free-kick delivery was headed goalwards by Tyler Dibling, forcing a tip over the bar from Terry.
However, the hosts soon had their third goal of the night as Kodua intercepted a pass out from defence on and played in Mubama who made no mistake by poking into the net via the body of Mohamed.
Saints did not lose their spirit and Davis was unfortunate to see his low strike flash wide of the far post after he had done well to wriggle past a West Ham challenge and into some space in the box.
Ballard then tried to get Saints on the scoresheet when he found room to move towards the area and fire a low left-footed effort goalwards, but Terry was again on hand to make the required save.
The striker was not to be denied for long though as he did pull one back for the on 65 minutes with his seventh strike of the competition.
An excellent run from Meghoma down the left wing saw him skip past Ryan Battrum and pull the perfect ball back to Ballard who duly finished first-time from near the penalty spot.
It was a moment that provided some encouragement for Saints as they tried to get back into the contest, but their momentum proved to be short-lived as West Ham soon responded with their fourth goal.
Home captain Kodua received the ball on the left and pushed into a promising position in the Saints box and that gave him the opportunity to place a low shot across goal and into the far corner.
It had been a confident display from the home side in front of a respectable crowd at the London Stadium and they took another stride towards the FA Youth Cup final when Mubama completed his hat-trick, turning home a rebound with 18 minutes left to play.
Despite the deficit for his side, Mohamed had been in inspired form for Saints all evening and he produced another superb save late on when he smothered a first-time volley from Mubama as the treble scorer looked to add another to his tally.
The scoring was rounded off late on when West Ham substitute Fawumni stole in at the back post to turn home Marshall’s low ball across goal.
West Ham: Mason Terry, Ryan Battrum, Ollie Scarles, Lewis Orford, Regan Clayton, Kaelan Casey, Patrick Kelly (Sean Tarima 75), George Earthy (Dan Rigge 87), Callum Marshall, Gideon Kodua (c) (Favour Fawunmi 87), Divin Mubama.
Unused subs: Finn Herrick, Josh Briggs, Blaise Uwandji, Liam Jones.
Goals: Mubama (3), Kodua, Marshall, Fawunmi.
Southampton: Mohamed Adli, Sonnie Davis, Jayden Meghoma, Will Armitage, Jem Hewlett (c), Cameron Bragg, Kamari Doyle, Alex Stepien-Iwumene (Jay Robinson 65), Dom Ballard (Will Merry 72), Tyler Dibling, Samuel Amo-Ameyaw.
Unused subs: Ethan Hartness, Josh Jeffries, Josh Squires, Joe Andrews, Tommy Dobson-Ventura.