A couple of examples of Premier League quality provided the difference as Watford safely negotiated a potential banana skin and made it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 2-0 victory over Burton Albion at Vicarage Road.

The Hornets’ first victory in six games was secured by goals from Christian Kabasele – after some fine build-up work by full debutant Brandon Mason – and an impressive second-half individual effort from Jerome Sinclair.

And it was the younger and more inexperienced first-team members who offered most of the encouraging signs in a tie where the home side deserved to progress without being overly convincing, particularly during a second half in which the hosts were perhaps fortunate not to be pegged back in the early stages before Sinclair’s goal provided some welcome daylight.

The former Liverpool man’s pacey, direct approach became an increasing threat as the game progressed – none more so than when he netted his fine first goal for the club – but for their performance over the 90 minutes Mason and Doucoure shone brightest.

The young left wing-back set up his side’s first goal for Christian Kabasele and looked assured throughout, while his teammate - making just his fourth Watford start having prevbiously been out of favour under Mazzarri - got through a lot of promising work in a box-to-box role alongside Etienne Capoue, who was a visible presence throughout the first half before his influence waned in the second period.

Mazzarri suggested in the build-up he would select a strong team and he was true to his word, although the starting XI did show five changes to the side that was beaten 2-0 at Stoke City in midweek.

In came goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon, Craig Cathcart, full debutant Mason, Sinclair and Odion Ighalo. Sebastian Prodl dropped to a bench that featured summer signing Brice Dja Djedje for the first time, Adlene Guedioura is now on African Cup of Nations duty with Algeria, while Heurelho Gomes, Valon Behrami and Jose Holebas were not involved.

Nigel Clough went one better than Mazzarri in terms of changes and made six, which meant former Hornets Lee Williamson and Lloyd Dyer were named in the starting line-up for the Brewers, who, like their opponents, came into the tie with just one win in their previous six outings.

Given their ongoing injury problems, the last thing the home side needed was an early injury scare but the Hornets medical staff were on the pitch inside the opening 90 seconds after Cathcart came off worse following an accidental clash of heads with Miguel Britos. Following some treatment though, the Northern Ireland international was soon involved again.

The Hornets, playing a 3-4-3 formation, saw plenty of the ball in the early stages, including Mason, who was able to get some early touches to help settle him down on his first start. But chances were thin on the ground, although Mason had a promising situation in the 12th minute when he got past Marcus Harness with relative ease and played in a good enough cross from the left, but keeper Jon McLaughlin was able to gather comfortably.

Soon after that situation though, Cathcart went to ground again – clearly still feeling the effects of the earlier clash – and it was quickly evident his game was over as the Hornets were forced into yet another unwanted substitution, with Prodl taking his place.

Burton had started confidently enough, but more of the game was being played in their half with Capoue the next to try and make something happen with a deep cross to the back post which saw Kabasele beaten to the header by Kyle McFadzean.

But it was the Belgian who was to break the deadlock in the 21st minute thanks in no small part to the contribution of the Hornets’ full debutant.

Sensing something could be on, Mason worked a lovely give and go with Troy Deeney to open up the space on the left flank before hitting a precise delivery across the six-yard box which presented Kabasele with the easiest of finishes to make it 1-0.

The Hornets could have had a second six minutes later when Capoue found Deeney in a central position around 25 yards out, he slipped the ball to Ighalo, who produced a trademark scoop to open up a shooting opportunity, but hit a rising left-footed effort over.

Burton also had to make an unwanted first-half change when they lost Will Miller to injury in the 32nd minute and he was replaced by Jamie Ward, but they did start to offer more of an attacking threat as the first half drew to a close from some promising crossing positions, although Pantilimon and his defenders were not unduly stretched.

That changed in the 43rd minute when the Hornets keeper failed to get sufficient distance on a clearing punch to a cross and the ball dropped for Ward on the edge of the 18-yard box. His volley was struck well enough, but it was blocked by Capoue and bounced away to Ighalo, who immediately countered; the move ultimately ending with Capoue testing McLaughlin with a low drive from 25 yards.

Tom Naylor picked up the game’s first yellow card in injury time after blatantly pulling back Ighalo as the home side went into the break a goal to the good after some encouraging signs. That said, Pantilimon was fortunate the half-time whistle came when it did because he had fluffed an attempted clearance straight to Ward, who was preparing to pull the trigger when Lee Mason decided to bring the opening 45 minutes to a close.

The Brewers started the second period confidently and they created the first chance after the restart in the 48th minute when Dyer slipped in the overlapping Tom Flanagan on the left side of the area and his cross was headed down and wide of the near post by new signing Luke Varney.

Sinclair forced McLaughlin to go to ground to hold his right-footed angled drive at the other end, but soon after Younes Kaboul was caught out of position by Flanagan again and this time the left wing-back’s cross flashed dangerously across the six-yard box with Harness not far away from getting a touch.

The Hornets had not really got going since the resumption, were arguably fortunate to still be ahead and Mazzarri decided to freshen things up on the hour by bringing on Dja Djedje for his debut in place of Kaboul.

The summer signing from Marseille was soon giving Burton food for thought with his pace down the right flank, but it was Sinclair who was to have Flanagan in difficulty as he beat him for pace on the edge of the area and was cynically hauled back, causing Mason to show a yellow card for a second time.

But there were concerning scenes in the Hornets box soon after when Pantilimon went over the top of Varney to punch clear and flattened the Burton debutant in the process. The Watford keeper was quick to signal for medical assistance and the former Ipswich Town striker was soon to be lifted onto a stretcher and carried off wearing an oxygen mask, with Lucas Akins taking his place.

The visitors were continuing to ask most of the attacking questions though, with Watford struggling to get into the opposition half, let alone build on passages of concerted offensive play. But as it looked as though the Hornets could be in for a tricky last 15 minutes or so, Sinclair decided to take matters into his own hands to superb effect.

Receiving the ball not far inside the Albion half, the former Liverpool man accelerated towards the edge of the area where, as it began to look like he might be closed down, he danced around three challenges before blasting a fine right-footed finish past McLaughlin to score his first Watford goal and make it 2-0.

After Jon Brayford had been booked following a coming together with Doucoure and Luke Murphy had replaced Matty Palmer, Ighalo could have ended his wait for a goal when he was slipped in by Sinclair. But having chopped back onto his right foot, the striker’s effort was blocked by McLaughlin.

Dja Djedje then fired a rising drive over from the edge of the area before the fourth official signalled a minimum of eight minutes of injury time, mainly as a result of Varney’s injury.

Sinclair wasn’t far away from netting his second when his quick and direct running took him clear of the Burton defence but he was unable to beat McLaughlin with an angled left-footed drive.

That was to be Sinclair’s last meaningful involvement as Mazzarri took the opportunity to give another Under-23 player, Carl Stewart, a debut before the end as his side took their place in round four.

Watford: Pantilimon; Kaboul (Dja Djedje 60), Cathcart (Prodl 16), Britos; Kabasele, Capoue, Doucoure, Mason; Sinclair (Stewart 90), Deeney, Ighalo. Not used: Arlauskis, Watson, Folivi, Eleftheriou.

Burton Albion: McLaughlin; Brayford, McFadzean, Flanagan; Harness, Williamson, Palmer (Murphy 81), Naylor, Dyer; Miller (Ward 32), Varney (Akins 70). Not used: Bywater, Mousinho, McCrory, Barker.

Bookings: Naylor for a foul on Ighalo (45); Flanagan for a foul on Sinclair (62); Brayford for a foul on Doucoure (80).

Attendance: 13,270 (875 away fans).

Referee: Lee Mason.