WATFORD captain Troy Deeney came up big for the Hornets again, netting twice late on to secure a dramatic 3-2 comeback win for the Hornets over Aston Villa.
Ciaran Clark opened the scoring with a header for the away side but that was cancelled out by an Almen Abdi free-kick in first-half stoppage time.
A quick start to the second half gave the Villans the lead again, Jordan Ayew restoring the away side’s advantage with a powerful strike.
A red card to Aly Cissokho handed Watford the initiative and the Hornets took advantage in style. Deeney headed home Steven Berghuis’ cross in the 90th minute before sending the home fans into delirium with the winner in the third minute of time added on.
Head Coach Quique Sanchez Flores made four changes as Watford looked to bounce back from defeat at Wembley last weekend.
Heurelho Gomes continued to be an ever present in the league, returning in goal in place of Costel Pantilimon.
It was a first league start in 2016 for Ikechi Anya, who replaced Nathan Ake at left-back. On the other side, Juan Carlos Paredes was in for Allan Nyom at right-back.
Etienne Capoue missed out with an injury that he picked up against Crystal Palace. Mario Suarez started alongside Ben Watson in the centre of midfield in his place.
The opening 10 minutes saw Watford enjoy plenty of possession in the opposition half. A couple of half-chances were created but Deeney and Suarez couldn’t test Mark Bunn in the Villa goal.
Jose Manuel Jurado was causing problems early on, he stole possession from Clark but couldn’t quite find Odion Ighalo with the cross.
Ighalo was in the mix of the action again soon after, he looked to have found half a yard in the penalty box but Clark managed to block the forward’s shot with his legs.
Watford were only inches away from opening the scoring in the 24th minute. The first chance saw Deeney find Ighalo, whose near post effort was stopped by Bunn.
The second opportunity saw the bar come to the keeper’s rescue. Watson was afforded plenty of space 30 yards out and took aim, his sweet strike looked to be dipping in but it hit the woodwork and went out of play.
The Villans adopted a 5-3-2 system with Rudy Gestede and Ayew up front, and the latter had the away side’s first chance of the game, firing wide of Gomes’ goal.
With just shy of half an hour played, the away side took the lead. Ashley Westwood’s corner was delivered towards Clark who beat Gomes with a header into the bottom corner.
Looking for an immediate response, Abdi fired an effort wide from just outside the box. Deeney had stretched a leg out to try and re-direct it on target but couldn’t quite reach.
Villa almost doubled their lead just before the break. Idrissa Gana Gueye’s cross from the left-hand side picked out Ayew but fortunately for the Hornets, his header cannoned back off the post.
Watford took full advantage of the let off, grabbing the equalising goal in the second minute of first-half stoppage time.
Having been fouled initially, Abdi stepped up to take the resulting free-kick. From 25 yards out, he placed it perfectly into the bottom left-hand corner beyond the reach of Bunn.
Only three minutes into the second half, Villa re-took the lead. Gestede played it to Ayew who found the corner with a powerful low strike from just outside the area.
It was almost a two-goal advantage shortly after. Westwood picked out Gestede in the box but the forward couldn’t get an effort on target to test Gomes.
Just before the hour, Watford went agonisingly close to equalising for the second time. Deeney rose highest to get his head on Jurado’s corner but it was cleared off the line by Westwood.
The game was now starting to open up. Kevin Toner headed wide for Villa, then Craig Cathcart put his body on the line to block Gestede’s stinging goalbound effort. Down the other end, Berghuis’ deflected effort was held by Bunn.
With 73 minutes on the clock, Villa were reduced to 10 men. A ball over the top left Cissokho to deal with Anya one-on-one, the Watford full-back was brought down and referee Anthony Taylor adjudged it to be an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.
Abdi stepped up to take the free-kick that followed but this time his effort was blocked, as was his second attempt after it had bounced back to him.
Searching for an equaliser, Watford sent a number of crosses into the box but they were well dealt with by the Villa defence. Ighalo managed to get his head to an Amrabat cross but it went wide of Bunn’s goal.
The pressure eventually told, with Watford captain Deeney putting his side level with only seconds of the 90 minutes remaining.
Berghuis, who had made an impact after coming on as a substitute, sent in a teasing in-swinging cross, which was perfect for Deeney to head home to make it 2-2.
That wasn’t to be the end of the late drama. Deeney completed the comeback in the third minute of stoppage time with a strike from just inside the area to seal a dramatic victory for Watford.
Gomes (GK); Paredes (Berghuis, 57), Cathcart, Britos, Anya; Abdi, Suarez, Watson, Jurado (Amrabat, 71); Deeney (c), Ighalo.
Subs not used: Pantilimon (GK), Nyom, Prödl, Ake, Guedioura.
Goals: Abdi (45+2), Deeney (90, 90+3)
Yellow cards: Berghuis (78), Abdi (82)
Bunn (GK); Hutton, Lescott, Clark, Toner, Cissokho; Gueye (Sinclair, 88), Westwood, Bacuna; Ayew (Sanchez, 79), Gestede.
Subs not used: Guzan (GK), Richards, Veretout, Gil, Grealish.
Goals: Clark (28), Ayew (48)
Yellow cards: Bacuna (41), Gueye (45+1), Bunn (77)
Red card: Cissokho (73)