A late double from Troy Deeney secured Watford a stunning 3-2 win over 10-man Aston Villa at Vicarage Road.
Already relegated Villa looked set to end their 10-game losing streak having twice led through Ciaran Clark and Jordan Ayew.
But Deeney’s efforts after 90 and 93 minutes instead condemned Eric Black’s men to defeat and saw them equal the club’s worst run of consecutive league losses since 1962-63.
Clark’s header put Villa in front after 28 minutes and, although Almen Abdi’s free-kick levelled things up in first-half stoppage time, Ayew edged the visitors back in front just after the restart.
Villa then lost Aly Cissokho to a straight red card, but still looked set to secure what would have been their first away victory since the opening day of the Premier League season until Deeney – a boyhood Birmingham City fan – struck twice at the death.
Deeney headed home a Steven Berghuis cross to make it 2-2 and then found the net from the edge of the box to complete the late turnaround.
In a rather low-key opening quarter, the goalmouth action was limited to half-chances for Abdi and Deeney, neither of whom managed to test Mark Bunn, starting ahead of Brad Guzan in the Villa goal.
A last-ditch challenge from Clark then foiled Odion Ighalo as Watford upped the pressure on the visitors’ new-look, three-man defence.
And the hosts duly went close twice in quick succession as the lively Ighalo drew a smart save from Bunn with a low, angled shot after 25 minutes before Ben Watson rattled the crossbar with a dipping volley from outside the box.
The visitors’ first attempt at goal, meanwhile, a wild shot from Ayew that flew into the stands, was greeted with ironic cheers by the away fans.
But those who had made the trip down from the Midlands finally had something genuine to celebrate after 28 minutes as Clark netted his first league goal of the season, albeit completely against the run of play.
The Watford defence failed to deal with an Ashley Westwood corner, allowing the defender to plant a downward header beyond the despairing dive of Heurelho Gomes.
After being dealt that blow at the very end of the first half, Villa wasted no time in responding right at the start of the second.
Ayew played a neat one-two with Rudy Gestede on the edge of the box before rifling home to restore his side’s advantage.
Gestede then wasted a decent chance to make it 3-1 seconds later, dwelling on the ball too long and ultimately blazing his shot wastefully over.
Having given his side the lead in the first half, Clark made a similarly telling contribution at the other end on the hour mark as he cleared a Deeney header off the line.
And immediately after that reprieve, teenage defender Kevin Toner almost marked his first Villa start with a goal as he nodded a Westwood free-kick narrowly wide.
Villa suffered a major blow when Cissokho was dismissed with 17 minutes left. Watson’s long ball left Ikechi Anya one-on-one with Cissokho and the Frenchman brought the winger down on the edge of the box to earn his marching orders.
It was all hands to the pump in the latter stages for Villa and they looked set to hang on as full-time approached.
But they failed to pick up Deeney for the equaliser and still seemed shell-shocked when he pounced to claim his second and Watford’s third as the comeback was completed.
Key Opta stats:
– Watford have secured two league wins in a single season against Villa for the first time since 1969-70.
– Deeney is the second Watford player to score 10+ Premier League goals (11), after Odion Ighalo managed it earlier this campaign (14).
– Villa have lost 11 successive league matches – their joint-longest sequence of league defeats since May 1963 (11 in a row).
– Abdi is the first Watford player to score directly from a free-kick in Premier League history.