Odion Ighalo starred as Aston Villa were put to the sword by an impressive Watford side, who came away from Villa Park with all three points thanks to a 3-2 win.
Behind in the 17th minute thanks to an Ighalo strike, Villa did level up through Micah Richards, only for an Alan Hutton own-goal to restore Watford's lead in the second half. Captain Troy Deeney put the game to bed with a third five minutes from time, meaning that Jordan Ayew's 89th minute goal was a mere consolation.
Having stayed true to his word in dropping Jack Grealish from the squad, Remi Garde was holding concerns over his defence, rather than attack as the home side started sluggishly.
Ighalo fires Hornets ahead
The in-form Ighalo was getting too much time on the ball, and showed his intent by striking over in the early minutes. He wouldn't miss the second time around, tucking home to give the Hornets a 1-0 lead.
Ben Watson's shot deflected off centre-back Ciaran Clark, and the ball fortuitously fell for Ighalo inside the area, with the Nigerian cool under pressure to slot the ball past Brad Guzan.
Giving credit to the Villans, they did respond quickly, but failed to take their chances as Ayew sliced wide of Heurelho Gomes' goal, before the 'keeper was forced into a save, scrambling across his goal to keep out Idrissa Gueye's long range effort.
Villans kick on and equalise through Richards
Ayew again went for goal, finally getting one on target as he forced Gomes into a save, with the Watford stopper also tipping Scott Sinclair's header over the bar. At the other end, Guzan was forced out to block Etienne Capoue's attempt, but that was the closest Watford came to a second before half-time, as the Villans grabbed a deserved equaliser.
Jordan Veretout, commanding a regular starting place under Garde, swung a free-kick into the area which was met by his captain, with Micah Richards heading home four minutes before the break.
Things didn't continue in the same positive vain for Villa upon the start of the second half, possibly due to their rhythm being broken up a serious looking injury sustained by goalkeeper Gomes. Colliding with teammate Craig Cathcart when attempting to claim a cross, the Brazilian was down for quite some time with suspected concussion, a delay which eventually led to 10 minutes of added time being played at the end of the game.
Late goals put pay to Villa's chances of points
It certainly hampered Villa's play, as they went behind almost immediately after the restart. Deeney, who was looking to find strike partner Ighalo, saw his pass momentarily intercepted by Alan Hutton, only for the ball to divert into the net off the Scotsman.
With Watford ahead, Villa were slipping to their 11th league defeat in 14 league games this season, leaving them on a record low number of points at this stage. That record was sealed when childhood Birmingham City fan Deeney got on the scoresheet late on, heading past Guzan to extend Watford's lead to two goals.
Ayew, who had endured a fairly torrid afternoon up to that point, did pull one back for Villa to make the scoreline look a little less unconvincing, but his effort from the edge of the box wasn't followed up with a late equaliser.