The last-minute specialists have, quite incredibly, done it yet again. Watford sit fourth in the Premier League table tonight after Tom Cleverley struck as the Hornets netted a late goal for the third match in a row to come from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1, securing a first victory over the Gunners at Vicarage Road for the first time in a month shy of 30 years.

Marco Silva’s men rode their luck at times; the penalty Richarlison won to help his side get back on terms was generous, while Alex Iwobi and Mesut Ozil were unable to capitalise on great chances to double the visitors’ advantage. But the home side offered a much greater threat after the break and deserved to take at least a point for their positive approach in the second half and simply sticking at it.

The Hornets had started promisngly in a switch to a 3-4-3 formation, but Arsenal grew into the game from around the mid-point of the first half and were to take the lead six minutes before the break when Per Mertesacker headed in rather too easily from a corner.

Iwobi and Ozil were both to miss great opportunities to double the Gunners’ lead after the break – although Heurelho Gomes deserved considerable credit on both occasions – but in between times Marco Silva had brought on Troy Deeney and switched to a 4-3-3 shape.

Watford were already offering a greater threat in the final third when referee Neil Swarbrick generously pointed to the spot after adjudging Hector Bellerin had felled Richarlison. Deeney wasn’t going to complain though, and duly equalised from 12 yards.

Etienne Capoue saw a late effort deflected onto a post, but if Arsenal thought they’d done enough to secure a point they were in for a nasty shock.

Silva made three changes from the side that drew 2-2 at West Bromwich Albion last time out and also opted to change systems, matching up Arsenal’s 3-4-3.

In came Miguel Britos on the left of the three centre-halves, Roberto Pereyra and Andre Gray, with Capoue, Andre Carrillo and Deeney dropping to the bench.

Arsene Wenger went one further in terms of changes and there were also some surprises in his match-day 18.

The fit-again Laurent Koscielny and Mertesacker came into the back three in place of the injured Shkodran Mustafi and Rob Holding, who dropped to the bench. Mohamed Elneny and Danny Welbeck were also included in the starting XI, but there was no place in the match-day 18 for the two players they replaced, Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez, both of whom Wenger subsequently confirmed had muscular problems. However, the Gunners did have Ozil back on a strong-looking bench.

Watford started positively and at a high tempo, pressing from the front as they sought to try and prevent the visitors from establishing a passing rhythm.

There were some encouraging early signs on the right, with Kiko Femenia looking to utilise his pace when possible which created some space for Pereyra to try and use his qualities on the ball. But it was from that side of the pitch at the other end that Welbeck would have been in a superb position to cross had it not been for fine sliding challenge from Adrian Mariappa.

Richarlison needed a spell of treatment before the 10-minute mark after landing awkwardly but was able to continue, albeit with his lower left arm bandaged.

The Brazilian was soon taking on and beating Koscielny on the left side of the penalty area before sending in a low cross which Mertesacker cleared with Gray ready to pounce. A minute or so beforehand though, Christian Kabasele had to clear the danger when Sead Kolasinac got in around the back to volley a delivery from the right back into the danger zone.

The first chance of note was to be created by the hosts in the 19th minute when Jose Holebas had the time to come infield from the left and he slipped the ball out to the overlapping Abdoualye Doucoure. Rather than cross early, the Frenchman backed himself against Bellerin, but such was the pace on his eventual delivery Pereyra was unable to get enough of his head on the ball to direct his effort on target.

Arsenal’s first effort was to come shortly before the half-hour mark when Elneny sent a well-struck effort not too far high of the target, while some other dangerous situations had to be dealt with by the hosts putting their bodies on the line.

Gomes had to go to ground to deal with a placed effort from Iwobi, before racing to the edge of the area to gee up his teammates for allowing Bellerin to run in behind on the right with rather too much ease.

But the Watford keeper was to have little chance six minutes before the interval when he was beaten from the first corner of the match, conceded by Holebas to deal with a threat posed by Iwobi.

The set-piece was taken by Granit Xhaka and Mertesacker held off Cleverley as he made his run and then rose to meet the delivery just ahead of Mariappa to thump a header into the net to make it 1-0 with the Gunners’ first away Premier League goal of the campaign.

Having set up one, the increasingly influential Xhaka wasn’t too far away from doubling the visitors’ lead three minutes later when his left-footed effort was parried away to his right by Gomes. But Arsenal were able to keep the move alive and the ball was played back into the middle of the area where Bellerin side-footed a good opportunity wide.

The visitors continued to finish the half strongly, with Xhaka having another go from distance but this time Gomes was able to keep hold of the shot.

Watford had a promising opportunity immediately after the restart; Holebas eventually seeing his cross cleared, but it originated from the ball being played into Gray’s feet for one of very few times in the match to date.

The Hornets had another potential opening five minutes later when, after Femenia had been fortunate not to get caught in possession, the hosts countered but the wrong decision by Richarlison led to the move breaking down.

The Brazilian had another opportunity soon after, but his attempted curler from the left side of the area went the wrong side of Petr Cech’s far post.

The hosts continued to have the better of it, although they were almost in trouble when Welbeck got in on the right side of the area, but Holebas, who was having a good game, used his strength very well to avert the danger.

But that was to the England international’s last contribution as, shortly after, he went down injured and was to be replaced by Ozil.

Silva was already preparing to make changes though, and in the 62nd minute Deeney and Carrillo were introduced for Gray and Mariappa as the three-at-the-back was dispensed with.

As the Hornets were getting used to the switch to 4-3-3, Ozil started a move that ended with a one-two releasing Iwobi on the left side of the area, but the Nigerian international saw his shot superbly tipped around the far post by Gomes.

Kabasele was booked for a foul in that move, while Olivier Giroud was to replace Alexandre Lacazette. But it was Arsenal’s other substitute who was to spurn a gilt-edged chance to score what could have been a decisive second; Ozil all alone in the middle and having plenty of time after being picked out by Iwobi, but Gomes had sensed the danger and made a fine blocking save.

And the significance of that moment was emphasised when Richarlison took on and beat Bellerin on the outside before he went down and Swarbrick had no doubt as he pointed to the spot.

It was a soft penalty award but Deeney wasn’t going to pass the opportunity up, confidently beating Cech from 12 yards to equalise as the Gunners keeper guessed wrongly and dived to his right.

Watford’s tails were and particularly Richarlison’s, who had more time than he perhaps realised when he sent an angled shot into the side netting after Swarbrick had played advantage for a foul on Deeney.

Pereyra, having chased back to thwart an Arsenal attack after losing possession, was replaced by Capoue with 10 minutes remaining.

And it was the substitute, who with a little more good fortune, would have given the Hornets the lead when Richarlison again drove to the byline on the left and Deeney pulled the ball back for Capoue, whose shot hit Mertesacker on the chest, wrong-footing Cech only for it to be cleared after hitting the far post.

Having readied Jack Wilshere to come on, Wenger changed his mind as Holding replaced Koscielny, but still the Hornets kept in search of the winner, with Carrillo firing over from the edge of the area.

And then came injury time…and three minutes into it the roof was lifted off Vicarage Road.

Watford pushed forward with one last effort and Holebas hit a left-footed shot which was blocked, Deeney went in for the challenge, the ball coming loose for Capoue to try his luck. Again this was repelled, but the ball fell invitingly for Cleverley, who kept his composure to fire into the roof of the net to spark joyous scenes that are becoming increasingly familiar.

Watford: Gomes; Mariappa (Carrillo 62), Kabasele, Britos; Femenia, Doucoure, Cleverley, Holebas; Pereyra (Capoue 80), Gray (Deeney 62), Richarlison. Not used: Karnezis, Janmaat, Wague, Watson.

Arsenal: Cech; Koscielny (Holding 86), Mertesacker, Monreal; Bellerin, Elneny, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Iwobi, Lacazette (Giroud 67), Welbeck (Ozil 61). Not used: Ospina, Wilshere, Walcott, Coquelin.

Bookings: Kabasele for a foul (65).

Referee: Neil Swarbrick.