Watford 2-2 Crystal Palace
TWO goals in three minutes prevented Watford from climbing to second as old-boy Kevin Phillips returned to snatch a share of the points for Crystal Palace.
Almen Abdi handed Watford the lead after just four minutes before Nathaniel Chalobah doubled it 10 minutes later. Two goals in three second-half minutes from Palace pair Peter Ramage and Phillips secured Ian Holloway`s men a share of the spoils and maintained the status quo in the league standings.
Gianfranco Zola made two changes from last Saturday`s win over Bolton, bringing Jonathan Hogg in for Cristian Battocchio and Tommie Hoban for Joel Ekstrand.
Palace brought Kagisho Dikgacoi back following injury, replacing the injured Mile Jedinak.
It took Watford just two minutes to test Palace`s Julian Speroni; Troy Deeney helping the ball wide for Daniel Pudil who passed inside for Abdi who turned sharply to fire in a low shot which Speroni pushed wide for a corner.
The Eagles had failed to heed their warning, and just four minutes later Abdi punished Ashley Richards` poor clearance, cutting into the penalty area from the right and drilling low past Speroni.
Palace were immediately back in the Hornet`s half from the re-start, Stephen Dobbie cracking a right-footed effort from 20 yards which Manuel Amunia had to get a palm to in order to see the strike around the post.
Watford doubled their lead in the 14th minute a corner fell to Fitz Hall on the far side of the penalty area, the ex-Palace defender chipping to the back stick for Marco Cassetti to drive a volley into the turf which sat up perfectly for Chalobah to nod home unchallenged.
Vydra missed two good opportunities shortly the after, the first coming when he failed to connect with Cassetti`s low centre after a Palace defender slipped, the second when he only managed to steer a header wide from the Italian`s inch-perfect cross.
Just before the half-hour mark the league`s top-scorer Glenn Murray tested Almunia with a firm header from Bolasie`s cross, the Spaniard gathering with ease before dropping around the post to avoid colliding with the frame of the goal.
Palace began the second period brightly and Murray ought to have pulled one back for the visitors when Wilfried Zaha made enough room to send in a low cross which the former Brighton hitman failed to convert.
In the 67th minute Palace made their pressure pay when a corner brought about an almighty scramble from which Ramage smashed into the roof of the net.
Just three minutes later, the momentum was completely with the south Londoners as Zaha tore through the Hornet`s half before releasing Richards who saw his low cross turned home by substitute Phillips at the far-post.
With 10 minutes to go, Palace skipper Damien Delaney should have completed the turnaround for his side, but somehow failed to turn Zaha`s right-wing centre past Almunia at the near-post.
Watford were never as good as they were before getting their second and after Ramage scored, there was a genuine sense of inevitability about a second following.
For all the cosmetic changes to the playing staff this season, there is still sometimes a penetrable underbelly to be exploited, and once Palace stopped going route one and got Zaha into the game, they caused Zola`s side problems.
The Hornets had a goal disallowed in the second period, but it would have been clutching at straws to suggest the 'Orns deserved more than a point.
Watford: Almunia (c); Doyley, Hall, Hoban; Cassetti, Chalobah (Battocchio), Hogg, Abdi, Pudil; Deeney & Vydra (Forestieri).
Subs not used: Eustace, Yeates, Murray, Geijo & Bond (GK).
Crystal Palace: Speroni; Richards,Delaney, Ramage, Moxey; Dikgacoi, Marrow (Williams); Zaha, Dobbie (Butterfield), Bolasie (Phillips); Murray.
Subs not used: Parr, Wilbraham, O'Keefe & Price (GK).
Attendance: 15 079.
Referee: Mr M Naylor.