MICHAEL DAWSON’S own goal condemned Hull City to a sixth straight league defeat - the club’s joint worst run in the top flight.
The Tigers captain was unfortunate to see a drilled cross bounce off his knee and into the net with just seven minutes remaining.
It meant defeat for City, who after weathering an early storm of pressure had matched the hosts with a performance that was much improved on the sorry recent efforts against Bournemouth and Stoke City.
Mike Phelan’s switch to a 3-5-2 formation better suits the players at his disposal and the only complaint from a City perspective is that when chances came along they were spurned.
Abel Hernandez missed a gilt-edged opportunity early in the second half, while several other promising situations were wasted by the visitors.
Watford could, though, point to two efforts that crashed against the woodwork in the opening exchanges as justification that their victory was merited.
Both came within 25 seconds of each other during an early onslaught on the Tigers’ goal.
First, Younes Kaboul thundered a header against the crossbar after being picked out by Nordin Amrabat’s corner.
Then, after the ball had pinged around the City penalty box, Roberto Pereyra curled a shot against the outside of David Marshall’s post.
Marshall also had to get down smartly to keep out a low drive from Valon Behrami before Hull began to regain a foothold in proceedings.
Ryan Mason brought a save from Heurelho Gomes in that first half but it was the miss by Hernandez four minutes after the restart that truly cost the Tigers.
A Will Keane flick on put Hernandez in behind the home defence but, with just Gomes to beat, the Uruguayan scuffed his shot to allow the Hornets goalkeeper to save low to his right.
City were similarly wasteful 13 minutes from time when Will Keane made a total hash of a cross with Hernandez and Sam Clucas both unmarked in the middle.
It proved to be a costly wasted opportunity with the home side sealing all three points just six minutes later.
A right wing cross by Daryl Janmaat took a deflection before striking Dawson on the knee and bouncing past the helpless David Marshall to match the unwanted record of six straight losses that was set in 2009.
“We keep believing, we keep working, analysing where we can get better in order to improve,” City boss Mike Phelan said.
“We are on the back of a few heavy defeats, what is good is that we didn’t suffer another heavy defeat.
“We didn’t open ourselves up to more goals, we were strong in the defensive side of it.
“Just before they scored we had a great opportunity, we didn’t take it and paid the consequences. We have got to do more and do better with the ball in the final-third, it will come.”
Get the latest news from The Yorkshire Post on social media.
Follow @YPSport on Twitter
See our snaps at @YPSport on Instagram.