Watford striker Troy Deeney has hit goalscoring form of late, with five in his previous six Premier League games, and he scored at Selhurst Park but it was an own goal that, appropriately enough, decided a forgettable affair, the Brummie forward heading a Yohan Cabaye free-kick past his own keeper in the 64th minute.
With Selhurst Park rocking at kick-off, Palace had flown out of the blocks but, after weathering the storm, Watford took the sting, and any interest, out of a forgettable game.
A mazy run from deep in his own half by Wilfried Zaha in the fifth minute had taken him past Craig Cathcart and Valon Behrami before a recovering Cathcart halted his progress in the Watford area by leaning into the Palace winger, referee Martin Atkinson waving play on.
Watford keeper Heurelho Gomes was caught in no-man’s-land at his near post in the 37th minute after Jason Puncheon had hooked the ball cleverly out to Zaha and his ball in from the left was crying out for a touch.
Apart from wild efforts from the eager Zaha – who had the beating of Cathcart – and Behrami, there was little to shout about and Etienne Capoue fired wide for Watford in the 48th minute after shrugging off Puncheon.
Zaha – fortunate to escape punishment after punching the shirt-tugging Sebastian Prodl on the back of the head moments earlier – slashed an effort high and wide at the far post in the 63rd minute after picking up Andros Townsend’s cross and tormenting Cathcart again.
It was the duel between Prodl and Zaha that prefigured Palace’s goal, the Austrian sending Zaha flying as he tore down the left to concede the dead-ball Cabaye belted in towards the near post where the unfortunate Deeney was waiting.
Wayne Hennessey had to be at his best to palm away a fierce effort from Watford sub Abdoulaye Doucoure 13 minutes from time and then Cabaye went close at the other end as the clock ticked down, firing a bouncing effort past the diving Gomes’ right-hand post after Miguel Britos had his pocket picked by Townsend and Puncheon.
There was a heart-in-mouth moment deep into added time when Hennessey came for a ball hung in from deep and lost out to Deeney but M’Baye Niang lobbed the loose ball over and Palace banked three crucial points.