With both managers coming in for intense scrutiny over recent results, this London derby took added significance as a "must-win" game.
Martin Jol admitted prior to the match that he could lose his Fulham job if his team were defeated, and the away fans made their feelings clear in the second half, chanting "Jol out!" and "You're getting sacked in the morning!"
Jol remained on the bench for most of the game, with his new right-hand man Rene Meulensteen barking orders at the team for the majority of the game.
Speculation will surely increase that the former Manchester United coach will replace his compatriot following the team's ninth defeat of the season.
The first goal was reflective of a scrappy tie too, as Mohamed Diame's deflected effort just after the break broke the deadlock after a tight first half.
West Ham's Coles settled the matter late on, as first Carlton tapped home after 80 minutes from Stewart Downing's cross, before Joe fired home after great work from Ravel Morrison, handing Sam Allardyce and his side a much-needed win.
On the other hand, another defeat for Jol's Fulham leaves the futures of both in increasing doubt.
Coming into the game, both sides were struggling in the league, with West Ham - without a win in five - sitting in 17th, just one place above their visitors Fulham, who were winless in four.
Early on it was the hosts who were in the ascendancy, however, with Modibo Maiga leading the line and nearly putting his side in front on 10 minutes, with his header rebounding back off the post.
Fulham settled as the game progressed, and Kieran Richardson should have done better when presented with a free-kick just 20 yards out after Darren Bent was felled.
George McCartney was the culprit, and was yellow carded for his cynical efforts. Indeed, the full-back was one of five who were cautioned in a tough-tackling first half.
The second settled down a little more and saw West Ham get more of a foothold in the game, especially after Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell were dispossessed by Diame whose low effort wrong-footed Maarten Stekelenburg via a heavy Fernando Amorebieta deflection, breaking the deadlock.
West Ham continued to dominate following the opener, with first Maiga then Downing testing Stekelenburg in the Fulham goal.
Set-pieces continued to be West Ham's biggest threat, however, and James Tomkins nearly made it 2-0 after 63 minutes, when his header from a corner was cleared off the line by Bent.
Fulham did not pose much of a threat all afternoon, though Pajtim Kasami and Adel Taarabt both had efforts late in the second half as their attempts to rescue the game petered out.
As they laboured, West Ham's trio of substitutions did the business for Allardyce.
Joe Cole's cross hit the woodwork, while Morrison provided a constant threat late on to a weary Fulham defence.
It was returning striker Carlton Cole who settled West Ham's nerves, though, tapping home after great work from Downing for his first goal since returning to Upton Park.
Morrison then jinked his way through Fulham's defence before teeing up Joe Cole, who fired low and hard past Stekelenburg to pile even more pressure on Fulham and Jol.