There was to be no early Christmas present of three points for Watford as they suffered a fourth consecutive defeat – and extended their poor run to taking one point from the last available 18 – with a 1-0 loss at Brighton & Hove Albion.

The lack of confidence in the Hornets’ ranks was evident during a hesitant opening which saw them survive a testing opening spell, before gaining a firmer foothold in the contest but without being able to find the quality when it mattered during a goalless first half.

The Seagulls had come into the game without a win in seven matches and with only one goal in their last six outings, and as chances came and went for the hosts they must have started wondering if it would not be their day in front of goal again.

But the decisive moment was to come in the 64th minute when Pascal Gross toyed with the Watford defence as he came in off the left before hitting a right-footed shot that went through the diving Heurelho Gomes’ gloves.

The visitors’ best chance of getting back on terms was to be spurned by Richarlison went he sent a free header from relatively close range wide, but this was a poor display by the Hornets who offered comparatively little in the final third to get close to being a sustained threat to their opponents.

Marco Silva was always going to have to make two changes from last weekend’s horror show against Huddersfield Town due to suspensions to Troy Deeney and Abdoulaye Doucuoure, but ultimately decided on four as he reverted back to a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Adrian Mariappa dropped to the bench as a result of the tactical switch, while Etienne Capoue paid the price for his poor showing against the Terriers and was also named among a list of substitutes that including teenage striker Michael Folivi.

Roberto Pereyra and Andre Gray returned to the starting XI as did Tom Cleverley following his one-match ban. And, perhaps most significantly, Ben Watson came in for his first Premier League start since May 2016.

Silva was forced into one further change before kick off when Daniel Bachmann replaced Orestis Karnezis on the bench due to a minor back problem.

Like their opponents, Brighton also had suspension issues with centre-half Shane Duffy ruled out, but Chris Hughton made three changes.

Connor Goldson came in for Duffy in the heart of the defence, Tomer Hemed replaced the benched Glenn Murray, while Markus Suttner replaced Gaetan Bong, who was not in the 18.

The Hornets started in a measured fashion, enjoying the bulk of the early possession, but they almost came unstuck in the fifth minute when a defensive lapse allowed Hemed to break into the area and as Christian Kabasele slipped, the Seagulls forward played the ball right across the six-yard box beyond the far post. Anthony Knockaert latched onto it and played another dangerous delivery into the near post where Gomes managed to touch it out and the visitors were able to frantically clear.

The hosts continued to apply the pressure, with Gross shooting wide before the overlapping Bruno dinked his way past Jose Holebas on the left and pulled the ball back for Davy Propper, who got his attempted finish all wrong.

Watford were playing too deep in the early stages and the Seagulls had another chance in the 13th minute when Solly March whipped in a dangerous low cross from the left and the outstretched boot of Hemed wasn’t too far away from connecting.

Silva’s men got through that spell, and had their first effort from the opening corner of the contest when Cleverley intentionally pulled his set-piece delivery from the right back to the edge of the area where Pereyra struck it first time on the volley, but pulled his effort wide.

The Hornets then had a promising break when Richarlison dispossessed Knockaert and found Pereyra, who turn fed Andre Carrillo, but Propper cut out the Peruvian’s attempts to slice open the defence and find his Brazilian teammate.

Following something of a lull, Brighton had the next opportunity when a corner from the left was allowed to travel beyond the far post where Goldson headed down but Gomes was able to turn it behind.

The next opportunity came to Knockaert, coming inside off the right and shooting straight at Gomes after being set away by a Lewis Dunk pass.

Watford started to come back as an attacking threat in the closing stages of the opening period when referee Paul Tierney played advantage when Carrillo was taken off the ball and Richarlison continued the advance, but his eventual effort lacked power and accuracy.

There was a moment of alarm for the Hornets in first-half injury-time when Solly March sought to release Hemed and although Kabasele got back at his opponent, there was a coming together. But Tierney ruled there was nothing untoward in the challenge as the opening period ended goalless.

The Seagulls came out strongly at the start of the second half but the reason for their scoring struggles was evident when Hemed fired horribly over after three of his teammates had resisted the temptation to pull the trigger as they worked the ball across the attacking line.

Much like the first half, the hosts were having the better of opening stages and another opportunity came and went when Goldson headed a corner from the left wide.

But Watford sprung to life in the final third in the 56th minute when Cleverley fed Richarlison to his left and he in turn found Pereyra, who slipped a pass back to the Brazilian on the left side of his area and his rising shot was turned behind by Mathew Ryan.

Back came from Brighton, with Gross trying his luck from 25 yards and shooting wide, but the game was starting to get more stretched as the hour-mark came and went.

The Seagulls were upping the ante though, and their efforts were to be finally rewarded in the 64th minute when the ball was worked to Gross, he came inside from the left and took on Kabasele before hitting a right-footed shot from the edge of the box which Gomes will be disappointed he didn’t do better with as he dived to his right.

The Hornets were all at sea and they were fortunate not to go two down in the 69th minute when a corner from the left picked out Dunk at the far post and he headed back across the target and narrowly wide of the far post.

Silva was already readying a replacement by this point and it followed that let-off as Jerome Sinclair replaced the disappointing Pereyra as the visitors switched to a 4-4-2 shape.

Watson then made way for Capoue but not before Brighton had spurned another chance to double their lead when March got away down the left and crossed for Hemed, who turned in the box and fired wide.

Silva’s third and final change was to bring on Stefano Okaka for Gray with 12 minutes remaining – a move that was greeted with somewhat ironic cheers from the Hornets faithful – after Kabasele had headed over a free-kick from the right.

Okaka and Cleverley both saw shots blocked before Holebas sent over an inviting cross from the left and Richarlison got free in the area, only to head down and wide of the target from barely six yards out. It was a big miss.

And it should have been punished moments later when, after Beram Kayal had replaced Gross, Propper found Knockaert in space on the right side of the area, but he fired into the side netting.

Watford were to have one last opportunity deep into injury time when Ryan dropped a Carrillo cross from the right at the far post, but the ball rebounded wide as Silva’s problems deepened ahead of facing Leicester City at Vicarage Road on Boxing Day.

Brighton & Hove Albion: Ryan; Bruno, Goldson, Dunk, Suttner; Stephens, Propper; Knockaert, Gross (Kayal 82), March (Izquierdo 90); Hemed (Murray 87). Subs not used: Krul, Huenemeier, Baldock, Schelotto.

Watford: Gomes; Janmaat, Prodl, Kabasele, Holebas; Watson (Capoue 74), Cleverley; Carrillo, Pereyra (Sinclair 71), Richarlison; Gray (Okaka 78). Subs not used: Bachmann, Mariappa, Wague, Folivi.

Bookings: None.

Attendance: 30,473.

Referee: Paul Tierney.