Watford proved they had the stomach for the fight this Boxing Day, as they got back to winning ways in the Premier League with a 2-1 win against Leicester City.
Goals by Molla Wagué and Abdoulaye Doucouré either side of the break at Vicarage Road were enough to cancel out Riyad Mahrez’ opener.
The Golden Boys went into the Christmas clash without a win in their last six league games, the visitors without a win in three. It felt like a must-win, even if nobody wanted to say us much before kick-off.
The Golden Boys made three changes from the defeat at Brighton on Saturday. Wagué made his first Watford start at the back, while Doucouré and Marvin Zeegelaar returned from suspension. They replaced Sebastian Prodl, Andre Gray and Jose Holebas.
Heurelho Gomes was the first goalkeeper called into action. After Daryl Janmaat gave the ball away, Shinji Okazaki rose highest to meet Marc Albrighton's cross and his header was smartly tipped over by the Watford keeper.
Within minutes Watford were down the other end causing the visitors probems as Andre Carrillo broke with pace out wide, beating his man to pull back for Roberto Pereyra whose clever flick was blocked en route to goal.
The Foxes really should have then taken the lead. A brilliant outside of the boot ball from Albrighton sent Jamie Vardy through one-on-one and the England man's dinked effort hit the side netting. His six-stud assault on the goal-frame thereafter said it all.
Leicester did go one up though. With 35 minutes on the clock, Albrighton exposed Daryl Janmaat to whip a ball to the far post where Mahrez coolly headed home.
The Golden Boys should have been level within minutes. Andre Carrillo showed lovely footwork to set Richarlison through, the Brazillian rounding Schmeichel and hitting the side-netting. Had he hit the ball earlier Schmeichel would have stood no chance.
As Roberto Pereyra looked to be struggling with an injury, he was replaced by Stefano Okaka. The popular Italian went straight up top with Richarlison moving to a more familiar role on the left-hand side.
And immediately after the substitution the Hornets were level. Tom Cleverley’s corner was met by Richarlison, whose acrobatic effort deflected off a Leicester defender and fell perfectly to Wague who simply could not miss from two yards. A first start and a first goal for the Malian, on loan from Udinese.
Moments later Watford could have been ahead. Cleverley was the architect, following up a neat Okaka flick with a disguised through-ball to Richarlison who hammered the base of the post.
The opening 15 minutes of the second period were devoid of any real golden opportunities for either side. A long range Abdoulaye Doucouré shot and a rather speculative overhead kick by Stefano Okaka both missed the target.
But just after the hour mark Vicarage Road erupted. Doucoure got a foot on Cleverley’s deep free-kick at the far post and his effort from a tight angle was judged to have crossed the line, referee Chris Kavanagh assisted by goal-line technology before awarding the goal.
Replays showed it may have been an own goal by the Dane but try telling that to Doucs - he was nearly in the Rookery by the time he stopped celebrating.
The Golden Boys nearly put the game to bed with just eight minutes remaining. Cleverley robbed Chilwell of possession inside his own half and raced towards goal, his low effort dragging narrowly the wrong side of Schmeichel’s far post.
Watford had Gomes to thank after two fantastic saves from late Leicester corners, instinctively blocking Wes Morgan from close range and then substitute Leonardo Ulloa’s header from the resulting set piece.
It was real backs against the wall stuff as the game moved into added time. Constant balls into the box as Leicester threw everything they had at the Golden Boys who defended resolutely.
There was a palpable outpouring of relief inside Vicarage Road after the whistle blew on three well-navigated minutes of injury time. How important could that be?