Cucho Hernandez netted a first-half brace as Watford boosted their survival chances with a vital 2-1 victory over Southampton on Sunday.
Hernandez's double gave Watford the perfect start before Mohamed Elyounoussi made things interesting by netting just before the break. Unfortunately for the home fans, this did not set up a comeback with the Hornets holding on fairly comfortably to secure a huge victory.
Saints made several sloppy errors in the opening exchanges and were made to pay for this casual start to the game in the 14th minute. Mohammed Salisu dramatically underhit a back pass and Hernandez pounced, creating an angle before squeezing a finish inside the post.
Although Southampton dominated the ball in the first half, Watford always looks threatening in transition and they eventually doubled their advantage by seizing upon another Saints mistake. A swift Hornets counter-attack ended with Hernandez – who was given far too much space by Romain Perraud – firing home Juraj Kucka's cross at the back post.
The creator of Watford's second should have scored himself minutes later. Again, Southampton were the architects of their own downfall, giving the ball away in midfield and having to rely of Fraser Forster to bail them out with Kucka bearing down on goal.
The Hornets were made to rue this missed chance on the stroke of half time when Saints pulled one back. James Ward-Prowse's free kick was nodded on by Che Adams for Elyounoussi to tap home his first ever St. Mary's goal.
Armando Broja came on at half time and Saints' change of shape helped some play some nice stuff, even if clear-cut chances were rare.
This was largely the story of the second half too, although Kucka did force a save out of Forster with just under 20 minutes left.
Late on, Ward-Prowse drew gasps from the away fans when his dipping free kick tickled the top of the net as it went over. And things were equally tense when Adams flicked a header goalbound, only for Ben Foster to fly across to tip it over.
Mercifully for Roy Hodgson, the full-time whistle went soon after. This victory moves the Hornets level on points with 17th-placed Everton, while Southampton have now lost three Premier League games on the spin.
Here are your player ratings for both teams...
Southampton player ratings
1. Goalkeeper & defenders
Fraser Forster (GK) - 5/10 - Made a big save just before Saints pulled one back in the first half. Got a hand to Hernandez's second goal and will be disappointed.
Kyle Walker-Peters (RB) - 7/10 - His side's principal attacking outlet in the first half. Can play on the right, left or even in central areas with complete ease.
Jan Bednarek (CB) - 5/10 - Bailed out Mohammed Salisu on a few occasions. Booked for a poor tackle after the break.
Mohammed Salisu (CB) - 2/10 - One of his worst games in a red-and-white shirt. A strangely error-prone display that he will be looking to put behind him. Missed two good chances as well.
Romain Perraud (LB) - 4/10 - Could have done so much better for the second Watford goal. Conceded a lot of fouls. Unlikely to displace Tino Livramento in the team on this form.
James Ward-Prowse (CM) - 6/10 - Created Elyounoussi's goal with a pinpoint free kick. His delivery caused issues all day.
Oriol Romeu (CM) - 5/10 - Sometimes ran into dead ends and was not in the best position for Watford's second goal. Booked in the second half for a pointless challenge.
Stuart Armstrong (AM) - 5/10 - A couple of spritely moments but largely underwhelming.
Mohamed Elyounoussi (AM) - 6/10 - Finally got his St. Mary's goal. Needed to get more involved throughout.
Will Smallbone (ST) - 4/10 - His inclusion as a forward was a surprising experiment. It did not really work with the Irishman coming off at the break.
Che Adams (ST) - 6/10 - Very limited service. Did set up Elyounoussi's goal with a brave flick on.
Armando Broja (ST) - 4/10 - Very disappointing.
Nathan Redmond (AM) - 5/10
Shane Long (ST) - N/A
Watford player ratings
5. Goalkeeper & defender
Ben Foster (GK) - 7/10 - Did not have a huge amount to do. Read Saints' crosses well for the most part. Made a great save from Adams at the death.
Kiko Femenia (RB) - 6/10 - A steady display, but his crossing was pretty poor.
Christian Kabasele (CB) - 7/10 - A few shaky moments but largely frustrated Saints' fluid front four. Vital in the dying moments when Southampton were peppering the Hornets' goal.
Samir (CB) - 7/10 - Confident and imposing, making one particularly important intervention to deny a near-certain goal. More of this is needed is Watford are to stay up.
Hassane Kamara (LB) - 6/10 - Come off second best in his duels with Walker-Peters more often than not, but never gave up.
Moussa Sissoko (CM) - 7/10 - Was everywhere for his team, both defensively and offensively. Such a shrewd signing.
Imran Louza (CM) - 6/10 - Made life hard for the Saints' midfield and was fairly tidy in possession.
Juraj Kucka (CM) - 7/10 - A livewire. He created the second goal and so nearly got one himself with a lung-busting run from midfield. Put in a decent defensive shift too.
Cucho Hernandez (RW) - 8/10 - Finished well for both goals. Has played his way into being an automatic starter under Hodgson.
Joao Pedro (ST) - 6/10 - Pulled wide to receive the ball and caused Salisu and Bednarek all sorts of problems. Needs to become more ruthless in front of goal.
Emmanuel Dennis (LW) - 5/10 - Carried the ball well into the final third but often made the wrong decision, much to the frustration of his teammates.
Craig Cathcart (CB) - N/A
Josh King (ST) - N/A
Ken Sema (CB) - N/A
Source : 90min