Brighton & Hove Albion 1-3 Watford
TWO GOALS in as many minutes from Matej Vydra helped Watford beat Brighton & Hove Albion to end 2012 in style.
Vydra's brace won the tie for the Hornets after a David Lopez penalty a few minutes earlier had tied the game up at 1-1 after Troy Deeney's opener.
Gianfranco Zola kept faith with the same side which was named to face Bristol City before the postponement, meaning Ikechi Anya came in for the suspended Marco Cassetti.
Fernando Forestieri returned to the bench following injury along with Jonathan Bond.
Gus Poyet's Seagulls were without the services of Will Buckley, meaning Kazenga Lua Lua returned to the starting XI for the hosts.
Watford began on the back foot with Brighton controlling possession and territory for the first 20 minutes, Watford only posing a threat of any note on the break.
However, in spite of that, Daniel Pudil ought to have done better in the seventh minute when he met a corner firmly to plant a header comfortably wide when well-placed.
Three minutes later Lua Lua made tracks down the left-hand flank before pulling a low cross into the middle of penalty area where Andrea Orlandi tripped, allowing Andrew Crofts to fire over.
In the 19th minute Lua Lua had another opportunity as he progressed down the left before cutting inside a firing a right-footed stinger against the palms of Manuel Almunia.
Six minutes later Watford showcased their finest football, Nathaniel Chalobah flicking into the path of Jonathan Hogg who opened up his body before slotting into the palms of the collapsing Tomasz Kuszczak.
Deeney had Watford's next chance, stretching his neck muscles to meet Anya's right-wing cross, only for Kuszczak to claim with ease.
A minute before half-time Craig Mackail-Smith pulled the ball across the face of goal dangerously but Pudil was on-hand to prevent the cross reaching its target.
In first-half injury time Vydra was picked out by Chalobah before firing a low left-footed drive toward the bottom corner only for Kuszczak to tip around the post.
Just nine minutes into the second-half, Deeney bagged the opener for the Hornets.
Latching onto a cross from Pudil, the former Walsall man powered forward before stuffing the ball under Kuszczak via a deflection.
In the 65th minute the hosts levelled when Almunia spilled a routine collection of the ball meaning Tommie Hoban was left flat-footed, pushing Lua Lua to the floor.
From the resulting spot-kick Lopez stepped up to blast down the middle to level the scores.
That lead was short-lived however, and just two minutes later Vydra re-established the Hornet's lead, clipping over Kuszczak, once again with the aide of a deflection.
In the 69th minute the Czech Republic international killed the tie off, racing onto a through-ball before drilling under Kuszczak to secure an impressive three points.
A good performance and a good result for the Hornets who are now within a point of fifth-placed Leicester City with a game in hand.
After weathering something of a storm early on Zola's side eventually began to get a foothold in the game and took control of the tie, picking their opponents off with three well-taken goals.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Kuszczak; Bruno, Greer (c), El-Abd, Bridge; Crofts (Hoskins), Orlandi (Barnes), Bridcutt; Lopez (Dobbie), Mackail-Smith & Lua Lua.
Unused subs: Brezovan (GK), Dunk, Hammond & Dicker.
Watford: Almunia (c); Ekstrand, Hall (Neuton), Hoban; Anya, (Mujangi Bia), Chalobah, Hogg, Abdi (Battocchio), Pudil; Vydra & Deeney.
Unused subs: Bond (GK), Yeates, Geijo & Forestieri.
Attendance: 26 727
Referee: Mr O Langford.