ALBION'S lack of height proved their undoing as Wolves boosted their survival hopes in the 158th Black Country derby.
With six-footers Steven Reid, Chris Brunt and Paul Scharner all missing, Wanderers surged into a 2-0 half-time lead thanks to goals from Steven Fletcher and Adlene Guedioura - both coming from corners.
It looked game over early in the second half when Fletcher capitalised on an Abdoulaye Meite mistake to bag his second.
But Albion were much improved from that moment onwards and Peter Odemwingie pulled a goal back from the spot on 55 - becoming the first Barclays Premier League player to score in five successive games this term.
The Baggies then made a real fight of it - with Jerome Thomas hitting the bar - but it proved too big a mountain to climb.
Albion started the day in 13th place, safe in the knowledge that, after yesterday's results, they'll be playing in the Premier League again next season.
Wanderers did not have that luxury, sitting second-bottom, two points off safety, with their fate very much in the balance.
Somen Tchoyi was handed his first start under Roy Hodgson, making the starting XI for the first time since December 28, and fit-again Thomas was recalled. The men to make way were the suspended Scharner and Carlos Vela.
Mick McCarthy made two changes, with Stephen Hunt and Guedioura coming in for benched duo Matt Jarvis and Richard Stearman.
Albion kicked off attacking the South Bank amid a cauldron of noise and recorded the first shot on goal in the fifth minute.
Simon Cox sent Thomas scampering away down the left and the winger cut inside before seeing his 15-yard drive deflect off Jody Craddock and straight into Wayne Hennessey's midriff.
Two minutes later, a spell of Wolves possession resulted in Jamie O'Hara getting in a shot from 20 yards, which clipped Youssouf Mulumbu and crept well wide.
But Albion defended the ensuing corner and Thomas surged straight upfield before laying off to Tchoyi, who curled wide from 25 yards.
Wolves were back on the attack on 15 and after Jonas Olsson fouled Stephen Ward on the edge of the penalty area, Scott Carson was at full stretch to push wide O'Hara's free-kick.
But it proved a momentary reprieve.
From Hunt's ensuing corner, Guedioura chested the ball forward and the unmarked Fletcher blasted home from close range.
Two minutes later, Wolves won another free-kick in an inviting position but Carson had Guedioura's effort covered as it curled over his bar.
With so many injuries, Albion were struggling for fluency as the half reached its midpoint - and it was 2-0 on 28.
Another Hunt corner caused the damage. Albion had very little height in the team and Cox was easily out-jumped at the back stick by Fletcher, whose header across goal was swept home by Guedioura.
It wasn't until the 32nd minute that the Baggies' next effort at goal came, when Nicky Shorey was well off target with a 25-yard free-kick.
Back came Wolves and George Elokobi headed well over from O'Hara's free-kick.
And Albion had a real reprieve on 38 when Fletcher headed wide from the edge of the six-yard box from another corner, this time taken by O'Hara.
The Baggies got a proper foothold in the game during the dying stages of the half, but after a neat spell of keep-ball, Thomas fired well wide from 20 yards.
In the final minute of the half, Odemwingie produced Albion's best moment.
The in-form striker jinked his way past Michael Mancienne and Elokobi before firing inches wide from 15 yards. Hennessey's finger-tips appeared to divert the shot wide - but referee Mike Dean signalled a goal-kick.
But Albion's afternoon took another nose-dive less than two minutes into the second half when Wolves made it 3-0.
Meite got into a horrible mess as he tried to cut out Kevin Foley's hopeful forward ball, allowing Fletcher to race through and slot past the onrushing Carson.
Albion regrouped and Hennessey was well positioned to gather Thomas' stinging 20-yard drive at the second attempt.
After Guedioura has seen a dangerous shot deflect off Olsson and fly into Scott Carson's side-netting, James Morrison went close at the other end, seeing an 18-yard drive deflect just wide.
From the ensuing corner came a lifeline.
Thomas won a 55th-minute penalty when he was fouled by Guedioura and Odemwingie made no mistake, tucking the ball calmly past Hennessey from the spot for his 15th of the season.
The goal reinvigorated Albion and Hennessey had to pull off a wonderful one-handed save on the hour-mark to keep out Cox's deft volley from Morrison's cross.
Albion went even closer on 64 when Tchoyi set off on a terrific run before sending clear Thomas, whose first touch took the ball wide but he smashed the top of the bar with his second, with Hennessey beaten.
The Baggies pressure continued and Tchoyi shaved the woodwork with a wonderful 70th-minute header from Mulumbu's centre, with Hennessey again a pedestrian.
Sub Marc-Antoine Fortune then powered past Craddock, only to fire wide from an acute angle.
Albion kept piling forward, which did leave them susceptible to the counter-attack, and Carson had to show a safe pair of hands to hold onto O'Hara's 25-yard grass-cutter.
Six minutes from time, Ward bustled through the middle but, with only Carson to beat, he pulled his shot wide of the far post.
The rest of the game, including five minutes of stoppage time, was largely spent in the Wolves half, with Albion patiently prodding and probing for another goal - but it wasn't to be.
WOLVES (4-4-1-1): Hennessey; Foley, Mancienne, Craddock, Elokobi; Guedioura (Jarvis 74), O'Hara (Stearman 80), Henry, Hunt; Ward; Fletcher (Ebanks-Blake 84). Subs not used: Hahnemann (gk), Berra, Vokes, Milijas.
ALBION (4-4-1-1): Carson; Jara (Fortuné 68), Meite, Olsson, Shorey; Tchoyi, Mulumbu, Morrison, Thomas (Vela 83); Cox (Miller 78); Odemwingie. Subs not used: Myhill (gk), Hurst, Thorne, Tamas.
GOALS: WOLVES - Fletcher (15 & 47), Guedioura (28). ALBION - Odemwingie (pen 55).
BOOKINGS: WOLVES - Guedioura (foul 54), Craddock (foul 79), Henry (foul 82). ALBION - Mulumbu (dissent 59).
REFEREE: M Dean (Wirral).
ATTENDANCE: 28, 510.
ALBION STARMAN: Jerome Thomas.
PIC: MIDFIELD TUSSLE...Morrison holds off Hunt