Watford’s winless run away from home has extended to 14 matches in all competitions following this afternoon’s 2-1 defeat to Wigan Athletic.
Lewis McGugan had given the Hornets the lead in the first half only for Wigan to equalise four minutes later through Jean Beausejour.
And Martyn Waghorn’s goal just before the hour mark ensured the Golden Boys would not end their barren run on the road which sees Beppe Sannino’s men without an away win since October 5.
The result means Watford’s slim play-off hopes faded even further as they now find themselves 11 points below the top six with ten games remaining, although they do have a game in hand on many of the sides above them.
Watford made just the one change to their starting XI but it was an interesting one. Essaid Belkalem was handed his first start since October 19 at the expense of Lloyd Doyley, who was one of four centre halves on a substitutes bench which included the returning Samba Diakite.
Belkalem made a few well-time challenges and an excellent last-ditch block in the first half but Wigan also had plenty of joy down Watford’s right side, as David Faraoni struggled to cope with Beausejour and often left the Algerian international exposed.
Wigan handed former Watford defender Rob Kiernan his first start following four substitute appearances. Kiernan started at left-sided centre half in a 3-4-2-1 formation.
After a decent spell of possession from the visitors early on, Wigan had a dominant ten-minute spell where they created two excellent chances.
Faraoni failed to track the run of Beausejour, who was slipped in behind Belkalem, and Manuel Almunia needed to make an impressive stop when one-on-one.
Almunia then needed to parry away a miss-hit Beausejour cross before ex-Watford Under-18s’ captain Kiernan had a header cleared off the goal line from the resulting corner.
Waghorn also had a shot from distance comfortably saved in an opening quarter of an hour which the hosts dominated.
Watford did have a ten-minute spell of pressure where Ikechi Anya – who was again upfront – had a powerful shot deflected wide and then sent another shot over the bar. McGugan also had a 20-yard shot saved go wide.
Anya was lively and almost slipped strike partner Troy Deeney in on goal twice inside a minute.
But Wigan regained control and terrorised the Hornets’ right-hand side for a while.
Almunia was forced to save from McClean at point-blank range, the Wigan forward hit the side-netting soon after and then Belkalem made a superb last-ditch block when Waghorn reached the byline on the opposite flank.
So Watford’s goal on 36 minutes came slightly against the run of play as McGugan’s low strike nestled in the bottom corner from 15 yards out.
The advantage lasted just four minutes though as another attack down the left saw Beausejour through on goal and whilst Almunia did well to save his initial shot, the Wigan wing back headed in to the empty net for 1-1.
Wigan extended their lead just before the hour mark when a miss-hit James McArthur shot was well controlled by Waghorn and he swivelled to shoot into the bottom corner from close to the penalty spot.
The goal mouth action had reduced significant following the break and that remained the case until the final 15 minutes.
Watford chased the equaliser in the final quarter of an hour and Anya dragged wide from the edge of the area following a good run by Pudil.
The best Hornets chance of the second period also fell to Anya with six minutes remaining when he was able to hold off a Wigan defender before getting his shot away, only to see it go wide.
Battocchio almost reached a low Deeney cross in injury time and the striker thought he was set for an excellent chance himself only for the offside flag to go up.
In the end, Wigan arguably should have won the game by a greater margin when in the fifth minute of additional time the ball was laid off to McArthur but the midfielder shot wide from the edge of the area unchallenged.
Wigan have now won nine of their last ten matches in all competitions and sit fifth in the table, with a game in hand on most of the sides around them.
Wigan Athletic line-up: Al Habsi; Boyce, Ramis, Kiernan (Rogne 79); Perch, McArthur, Gomez, Beausejour; Waghorn (Collison 61), McClean (Powell 69); Fortune.
Subs not used: Carson, McManaman, Maynard, Tunnicliffe.
Watford line-up: Almunia; Belkalem (Ekstrand 72), Cassetti, Angella; Faraoni, Battocchio, Tozser, McGugan (Diakite 81), Pudil; Anya, Deeney.
Subs not used: Bond, Hoban, Neill, Doyley, Merkel.
Referee: Scott Duncan.
Attendance: 14,556 (802).