Watford had to settle for a 2-2 draw against Bournemouth after twice shooting themselves in the foot defensively at Vicarage Road.

The Hornets led on two occasions as they sought the win that would all but ensure another season of Premier League football, but having been pegged back towards the end of the first half through a needless penalty, they conceded an injury-time equaliser when Jermain Defoe was afforded far too much space in the box.

The game was open from the outset which made for entertaining viewing and the Hornets struck first when Kiko Femenia saw a shot deflected past Asmir Begovic following a Jose Holebas cross from the left.

The Hornets continued to look good value for the lead and were set to take their advantage into the break until Holebas bizarrely and senselessly decided to help the ball out of play with his arm after Orestis Karnezis had made a superb save to deny Junior Stanislas, allowing Joshua King to equalise from the spot.

Watford were to be back in front soon after the resumption with Roberto Pereyra firing home after good hold-up play by the impressive Will Hughes.

The Hornets were unable to score a third though, but it looked like they would get away with it until injury time when a free-kick into the box was helped on and substitute Defoe was allowed far too much time to snatch an equaliser.

Javi Gracia made two changes from the side that was thrashed 5-0 at Liverpool before the international break as the Hornets sought a fourth straight home win under the Spaniard.

In came Daryl Janmaat and Hughes as Miguel Britos missed out due to illness, while Richarlison was left out of a Premier League starting XI for the first time since the opening day of the season.

There were also two changes to the Bournemouth side, both in defence, as Ryan Fraser and Charlie Daniels came in for Simon Francis and Adam Smith, who were ruled out with hamstring and knee injuries respectively.

The match started at a good tempo and the visitors almost got off to the ideal start inside four minutes.

After Adrian Mariappa had conceded a free-kick on the Hornets’ left, Junior Stanislas whipped in the delivery and a stretching Nathan Ake sent a header over via the top of the crossbar to go within inches of scoring against his former loan club.

Buoyed by that, the Cherries continued to push for the early breakthrough and Stanislas was the next to go close, coming inside off the left to hit a good right-footed curler from the edge of the penalty area which forced Karnezis to make a decent save diving to his left.

That sparked the Hornets into attacking life and after Begovic had climbed over Troy Deeney to claim a high, hanging Pereyra cross from the left, the Hornets skipper saw a shot blocked after being set up by Hughes. And that pressure was to be rewarded in the 13th minute.

Pereyra took a corner on the left short to Holebas, who struck it first time into the box where Femenia met it first time on the half-volley and his shot took a deflection and past the helpless Begovic to make it 1-0.

Having made the breakthrough though, the home side twice came close to letting their opponents straight back into it.

First, an almost carbon-copy of the set piece that saw Ake hit the bar early on came as Stanislas again delivered from the right, but this time the Dutchman’s bearings were not as accurate and headed way off target.

And even better chance followed for the Cherries when a defensive mix-up gave Callum Wilson the chance to go through one-on-one with Karnezis, but as the striker shaped to pull the trigger Sebastian Prodl made a superb goal-saving tackle to concede just a corner.

The first 20 minutes had been open and entertaining and that continued with a fine pass from the new-look bleach-haired Etienne Capoue putting Femenia in behind the Bournemouth defence and he pulled the ball back to Hughes, whose side-footed effort deflected off Deeney and wide of Begovic’s left-hand post.

Watford were given another opportunity when Hughes was chopped down by Stanislas just outside the penalty area in a central position, and although Holebas’ first effort hit the wall, the ball rebounded back to him and he managed to curl in the follow-up towards the target but Begovic was right behind it.

Gracia’s men continued to move the ball around positively and purposefully, but were unable to fashion another opportunity before Jordon Ibe had one for the visitors, coming in off the right flank and seeing his left-footed effort deflected wide of the near post.

Back came the Hornets, with Janmaat seeing a left-footed shot saved by Begovic, but not for the first time the chance had arisen thanks to some good work from Femenia, who had been enjoying a very effective afternoon to date.

The Hornets looked set to take their lead into the interval and that might well have done had it not been for a nonsensical intervention from Holebas three minutes before the break.

The situation arose after Stanislas cut in from the left and struck a shot which brought a superb save out of Karnezis, but with the ball dropping out of play Holebas, for reasons best known to himself, decided to help it on his way with his arm.

Bournemouth appealed and referee Andy Madley agreed, awarding a penalty in his first Premier League game. After Holebas was booked for his senseless act, King calmly sent Karnezis the wrong way to equalise.

Having got back on terms though, the Cherries were to suffer a blow in first-half injury-time when they lost the influential Stanislas to injury and he was replaced by Marc Pugh.

Watford would have been looking to make a fast start to the second half having been pegged back, and that was exactly what happened within four minutes of the resumption.

Deeney started the business end of the move, showing good strength to get the better of Fraser and cross from the left, the ball wouldn’t sit nicely for Hughes to get his shot away, but he managed to shield it for Pereyra to stroke it into the far corner past the helpless Begovic.

Prodl became the second player to be booked for a foul on Wilson, but Bournemouth were very much still in the contest with Ibe warming Karnezis’ gloves with a strike from the edge of the area.

Gracia made his first change in the 63rd minute with Prodl, who was looking shaky after his good start to the season, making way for Craig Cathcart to make his return to club action after his long injury lay-off.

Ibe was replaced by  Defoe four minutes later as the Cherries continued to look for a way back into the contest, but equally their opponents looked more than capable of adding a third.

Hughes’ very good afternoon was ended when he made way for Okaka with 16 minutes remaining, but Karnezis then had to stetch to help a Defoe header over the top.

Both sides completed their substitutions with 10 minutes remaining as Richarlison replaced Femenia, while Andrew Surman came on for Wilson.

The Hornets had a chance to add a third when a Holebas corner from the left was headed back into the danger zone by Deeney and Okaka flicked it goalwards, but Begovic was able to claim.

Another opportunity followed when Deeney hit a well-struck shot but Karnezis was always behind it.

There were worrying signs towards the end when King landed on top of Holebas by the advertising hoardings in front of the Elton John Stand.

The defender was able to limp back onto the pitch but was to need further treatment after full-time. By this stage though, the Cherries had snatched an equaliser.

A free-kick was launched into the box and after being helped on, nobody picked up Defoe and he gratefully lifted the ball beyond Karnezis to grab a share of the spoils.

Watford: Karnezis; Janmaat, Prodl (Cathcart 63), Mariappa, Holebas; Doucoure, Capoue; Femenia (Richarlison 80), Hughes (Okaka 74), Pereyra; Deeney. Subs not used: Gomes, Ndong, Gray, Lukebakio.

Bournemouth: Begovic; Fraser, S Cook, Ake, Daniels; Stanislas (Pugh 45), L Cook, Gosling, Ibe (Defoe 67); King; Wilson (Surman 80). Subs not used: Boruc, Arter, Smith, Simpson.

Bookings: Holebas for handball (43); Prodl for a foul on Wilson (56); Doucoure for a foul on King (78); Okaka for a foul on S Cook (90).

Referee: Andrew Madley.