Watford’s seven-match unbeaten run is over after Hull City underlined why they are also at the right end of the table by claiming a 2-1 win at Vicarage Road this afternoon.
The Hornets created very little during a disappointing first-half display and went behind four minutes before the break when David Meyler headed in after a Corry Evans shot had rebounded off the crossbar.
There was a better tempo about the hosts' play after the break and they suggested they might get something out of the game, particularly after substitute Almen Abdi had hit the post.
But within minutes of escaping at one end, Hull doubled their lead when Robbie Brady struck a fine curling free-kick into the net off the underside of the woodwork.
Nathaniel Chalobah did have a close-range effort cleared off the line as the Hornets tried to mount a late rally and they were at least given something to smile about in time added on when Troy Deeney continued his purple patch by scoring his seventh goal in six consecutive matches.
As with last weekend’s 4-1 win over Barnsley, Gianfranco Zola made just the one change and again it was up front, with Matej Vydra getting the nod to partner fellow joint top scorer Deeney. However, on this occasion the change was enforced as Fernando Forestieri was ruled out through injury.
There was better injury news among the substitutes, with Abdi returning to a match-day squad following his four-game absence after sustaining a dislocated shoulder in the 6-1 victory at Leeds United.
It was the visitors who had the first sight of an opening in the fourth minute when Jay Simpson threatened to get on the end of Robert Koren’s low centre from the right but Joel Ekstrand made the block..
Moments later, a poor clearance by the Hornets keeper was latched on to by Simpson but his shot from the edge of the area was blocked by Fitz Hall and then Stephen Quinn dragged a shot wide of Almunia’s right-hand post from 18 yards.
Watford didn’t do anything of real note in the opening 14 minutes but they almost created their first opening when Marco Cassetti hit a cross-field ball to Mark Yeates who in turn tried to slide Deeney in down the left side of the area but he was tight to the by-line when he got the ball and no chance was forthcoming.
The hosts won their first corner three minutes later and after Yeates’ set piece from the left was headed away to the edge of the area, Chalobah’s strike was deflected behind for another corner which came to nothing.
The Hornets continued to try and lift their game as the midway point of the half approached, albeit some of their passing continued to be not as crisp and accurate as it could be, before Hull were forced into a change in the 27th minute when Jack Hobbs replaced the injured Paul McShane.
Hull had the next semblance of an opening two minutes later when Meyler crossed deep beyond the far post from the right but Koren was unable to direct his attempted volley on goal.
The Solvenian was on target with his next effort soon after when the Hornets had been unable to clear Hull’s first corner of the afternoon but Almunia comfortably gathered the right-footed strike from around 16 yards.
Another chance came the visitors’ way in the 35th minute when Ahmed Elmohamady’s cross from the right was met by Brady but the Manchester United loanee couldn’t keep his effort beneath the bar.
The winger also fired over from outside the area four minutes later after a neat exchange with Quinn down the left but Watford were to be undone soon after.
The opportunity arose when Evans received the ball on the right side of the area and rifled in a shot that beat Almunia and cannoned back off the frame of the goal and Meyler was in the right place to head back past the Hornets keeper to give Hull a 1-0 lead.
The Hornets could have few complaints at trailing at the interval after a relatively flat opening 45 minutes in which their play lacked tempo and fluency.
Zola’s response to falling behind was to make a change at the interval, with Ikechi Anya replacing Ekstrand, meaning Cassetti moved to the right of the three centre-halves.
Watford had only mustered one attempt in the first half; their second arrived within 40 seconds of the restart as Deeney struck a 25-yard right-footed effort wide of David Stockdale’s right-hand post.
However, there was a moment of alarm for the on-loan Fulham keeper in the 49th minute when Yeates whipped in a cross from the left that almost surprised Stockdale at his near post and in catching the ball beneath his bar, he very nearly carried it over his own line.
The in-form Watford midfielder also had his side’s first on-target attempt of the match in the 54th minute, striking a curling 25-yard free-kick that Stockdale had to dive to his right to grasp by his near post.
Brady had his team’s first effort of the second half on the hour-mark when he connected well with a long-range shot but Almunia was always behind it. Soon after though, Cassetti ventured forward and his pass broke for Deeney, who didn’t properly connect with his attempt and Stockdale was easily able to save.
The Tigers keeper was also not to be beaten in the 64th minute when he comfortably dealt with Yeates’ attempted low curler after a Deeney back heel had released him on the left side of the area.
Abdi’s return to first-team action came a minute later when he replaced Daniel Pudil and then James Chester did well to get across the front of Deeney and prevent him cleanly connecting with a diving header following a Cassetti cross.
But Watford were inches away from equalising in the 68th minute when from another cross from the right, this time delivered low by Yeates’ left foot, Abdi arrived at the near post but his close range strike rebounded off the woodwork.
Brady good have no real complaint after he became the first player to be booked two minutes later for a crude hack on Anya. But he more than redeemed himself for that indiscretion three minutes later when, after Hull were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out, the winger curled a superb left-footed effort over the wall and into the net via the underside of the bar to double his side’s account.
Liam Rosenior replaced Koren before play restarted and then Zola made his final change, bringing on Alex Geijo for Hall as the hosts went for it for the last ten minutes.
Brady then made way for Nick Proschwitz but Watford almost gave themselves hope with six minutes remaining when, following a Yeates corner from the left, a Jonathan Hogg scuffed effort broke for Chalobah, who managed to get the ball beyond Stockdale but not Elmohamday, who had stationed himself on the goalline.
Simpson was booked for diving late on and Chalobah sent an ambitious effort wide as the game entered four minutes of stoppage time.
Deeney at least managed to keep his superb goal-scoring run going in the additional time when he gambled on a through ball and slid in to reach it just ahead of Stockdale and ensure his side wouldn’t fail to score for the first time in six matches.
But it was to be too little, too late as the the Hornets fell to their first home defeat in six outings.
Watford: Almunia; Ekstrand (Anya 46), Hall (Geijo 78), Hoban; Cassetti, Hogg, Chalobah, Yeates, Pudil (Abdi 65); Deeney, Vydra. Not used: Thompson, Bonham, Mujangi Bia and Battocchio.
Hull City: Stockdale, Chester, Bruce, McShane (Hobbs 27); Elmohamady, Evans, Meyler, Quinn, Brady (Proschwiz 83); Koren (Rosenior 73); Simpson. Not used: Jakupovic, Mclean, Cairney and Olofinjana.
Bookings: Brady for a foul on Anya (70); Simpson for simulation (88).
Referee: Mark Haywood.
More pictures from the game here: