Joao Pedro scored a second-half brace as Watford beat full-back Huddersfield Town to move into fourth in the Championship.
A ferocious finish past Lee Nicholls at the near post and a fine late header from the Brazilian saw Slaven Bilic’s side avoid a third draw in a row with three hard-earned points at West Yorkshire.
Penalty calls at both ends had defined a first half that lacked attacking quality at John Smith’s Stadium.
Watford were right to feel aggrieved when referee Leigh Doughty failed to award a kick after Michal Helik beat Keinan Davis to the ground, while Huddersfield saw their own claims ignored when Hassane Kamara appeared to manage a cross from Jack Rudoni.
Pedro’s hard-hitting low shot from inside the box secured Watford their fifth win in eight games, with his header from a Ken Sema corner sealing their triumph with four minutes left.
The victory temporarily sent Bilic’s side, who started the day in fifth place, third ahead of Blackburn and Norwich who met at the late kick-off, but Rover Scout victory took them over the Hornets again.
The defeat leaves Mark Fotheringham’s Terriers five points behind at the bottom of the table.
Senegal striker Ismaila Sarr started on his return for Watford after the World Cup, with his appearance a week after he failed to make himself available for their goalless draw against Hull City.
Experienced midfielder Leandro Bacuna was also brought directly into the squad by Bilic, having only arrived as a free agent signing three days earlier.
In-form captain Jonathan Hogg made his first start in three months for a struggling Terriers side that started brilliantly against the top-flight visitors.
They controlled the majority of possession in the first half but failed to produce a shot on goal, while their request for a penalty – when Kamara blocked a Rudoni cross – drew howls of disapproval from the part of the home fans when they were dismissed in the 35th minute.
The Hornets had already seen their own call ignored when Davis was knocked down after cutting into the box.
It wasn’t until the 32nd minute that Sarr produced the first shot on goal – a speculative long-range strike for an increasingly confident Hornets side.
Pedro then unnecessarily sent an effort from close range before Kamara tested goalkeeper Nicholls from a tight angle.
A determined run from Tom Dele-Bashiru set Pedro up for the opener after 54 minutes and, while Nicholls did well to keep the Terriers in the game with an excellent close-range save from Sarr, the deserved victory was completed by Brazilian striker.
‘Pedro is a game changer’ – reaction
Huddersfield Town boss Mark Fotheringham told BBC Radio Leeds:
“I am absolutely disgusted with the result. We know Watford are a great club that have just come out of the Premier League with incredible finances. But regardless, if you are organized and fit and an aggressive team you can cause problems to teams in this league.
“In the first half it felt like we were really dominating them and it was clear to see. You could see the buy-in from the players in the way they went about their business with real energy and determination.
“But the game just got away from us in the second half and those were the most important moments of the game, we didn’t take our chances or deal with their individual class. That’s what money buys, the individual players that they have in their front five.
“I’m really disgusted because I wanted to bring three points to this big crowd here today. They supported us so well again.”
Watford boss Slaven Bilic:
“Pedro, if you talk about him it’s scary sometimes when you know he’s only 21. To play so regularly at this high level is great for us.
“He’s good in the air. When the keeper hits a long ball, he wins those balls, he does well in midfield.
“It’s that kind of player, the way he improves every week. The game changers are always the ones who decide the game.”
- 12BoyleReplaced byHaydento 73′minutes
- 6HoggBooked 20 mins away
- 14RufflesReplaced byjacksonto 62′minutes
- 35DiarraBooked at 17 minsReplaced bysimpsonsto 62′minutes
- 25HallReplaced byRhodesto 81′minutes
- 25BacunaBooked at 28 minsReplaced byAsprilato 68′minutes
- 24Dele Bashiru
- 12SemaBooked at 81 minutes
- tenJoe Pedro
- 23SarrReplaced byM Gasparto 90+2′minutes
- 7DavisReplaced bybayoto 90+2′minutes
- 3M Gaspar
- Leigh Doughty
Match ends, Huddersfield Town 0, Watford 2.
Second Half ends, Huddersfield Town 0, Watford 2.
Failed attempt. Tyreece Simpson (Huddersfield Town) left footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is blocked. Assisted by Sorba Thomas following a counter-attack.
Failed attempt. Jordan Rhodes (Huddersfield Town) right footed shot from the center of the box is too high. Assisted by Tyreece Simpson with a header.
Corner, Town of Huddersfield. Corner conceded by Mario Gaspar.
Replacement, Watford. Vakoun Issouf Bayo replaces Keinan Davis.
Replacement, Watford. Mario Gaspar replaces Ismaïla Sarr.
Failed attempt. Etienne Camara (Huddersfield Town) right footed shot from outside the box is close but misses the right top corner. Assisted by Tyreece Simpson.
Attempt blocked. Keinan Davis (Watford) left footed shot from the center of the box is blocked. Assisted by Yáser Asprilla.
Failed attempt. Tyreece Simpson (Huddersfield Town) left footed shot from the left side of the box is close but misses on the left. Assisted by Jack Rudoni.
Purpose! Huddersfield Town 0, Watford 2. João Pedro (Watford) header from the center of the six yard box goes into the right top corner. Assisted by Ken Sema with a cross from a corner.
Corner, Watford. Corner conceded by Kaine Hayden.
Replacement, Huddersfield Town. Jordan Rhodes replaces Danny Ward.
Ken Sema (Watford) is shown the yellow card for dangerous foul play.
Kaine Hayden (Huddersfield Town) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ken Sema (Watford).
Corner, Watford. Corner conceded by Sorba Thomas.
Attempt saved. Ismaïla Sarr (Watford) right footed shot from the left side of the penalty area is blocked in the center of the goal. Assisted by Ken Sema.
Jonathan Hogg (Huddersfield Town) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by João Pedro (Watford).