Watford should have another three points and be in eighth in the Premier League heading into 2018. And for 86 minutes it looked like they would be, but once again the Hornets contrived to throw away a victory as Swansea City struck two late goals to snatch a 2-1 victory.

The hosts were comfortable throughout and had taken an early lead through Andre Carrillo. They were unlucky to see a Molla Wague header disallowed after the break and substitute Andre Gray should have made certain of the victory when put through one-on-one late on. But he didn’t and his teammates allowing themselves to get caught in cruise control without putting the game to bed was to come back and cost them very dear, again leading to justified questions about their game management.

Save for a Jordan Ayew shot which hit the bar in the early stages, Heurelho Gomes had enjoyed a comparatively quiet afternoon, but that was all to change in the closing stages as Ayew and Luciano Narsingh pounced to get Carlos Carvalhal’s reign off to a dream start.

After watching his side end their six-game winless run against Leicester City, Marco Silva made just the one change as Stefano Okaka made his first start since the opening day of the season and the player he replaced on Tuesday, Roberto Pereyra, was fit enough to be on the bench.

The appointment of Carvalhal had raised more than a few eyebrows and he made three changes to the team that was thrashed 5-0 by Liverpool last time out for his first selection as Swansea boss. In came Sam Clucas, Renato Sanches and Tammy Abraham as Leroy Fer and Oliver McBurnie dropped to the bench, but Wayne Routledge was not involved.

Watford started confidently enough and were given the early boost of seeing the early boost of seeing one of their opponents receive a booking in the third minute; Federico Fernandez yellow carded for cleaning out Richarlison beneath the Graham Taylor Stand.

But it was Swansea who almost took a stunning fifth minute lead largely out of nothing when after dispossessing Abdoulaye Doucoure, Ayew embarked on a cross-field run that took him past Ben Watson and was seemingly not going anywhere of any real danger, only to let fly right-footed from 25 yards and Gomes could only stand and watch as the ball crashed over off the top of his own crossbar.

The Hornets response to that was positive, with Tom Cleverley receiving the ball on the left side of the penalty area before turning and hitting a right-footed shot narrowly wide of the far post.

The home side were in the mood and soon after Doucoure set Richarlison away on the left and the Brazilian advanced before hitting a low cross shot which Lukasz Fabianski touched behind, although referee Martin Atkinson decided to award a goal kick.

But Watford’s positive opening was to be rewarded in the 11th minute when after holding the ball up, Okaka played a superb pass to put Richarlison in behind Kyle Naughton to hit a rising drive which Fabianski could only parry up and back out into the danger zone and Carrillo gratefully accepted the rebound to head home his first of the season to make it 1-0.

Boosted by taking the lead, Silva’s men were content to play patient keep ball for a period thereafter and wait for the opportunities to present themselves.

The next attempt on goal actually fell the Swans’ way, with Roque Mesa shooting harmlessly wide after Clucas had pulled the ball back to his midfield colleague.

Little of significance had happened since the goal though, with the game lacking intensity until Carrillo was booked for a foul on Ayew which was the catalyst for the visitors to have a spell of possession in the Hornets half.

Tom Carroll was the next player to trouble the referee’s notebook for a clear shirt pull on Doucoure, but the hosts were starting to lift their game again and in the 38th minute Daryl Janmaat sent over a cross from the right which Richarlison attacked well, but Fabianski was always behind the header.

Doucuoure was the next to chance his arm with a shot from the edge of the area which was always drifting wide as the home side finished the opening half a goal to the good and comfortable.

Carvalhal made a change at the second half, bringing on Narsingh for Mesa, but the game continued to have a similar feel to it with the Hornets almost scoring a lovely second in the 49th minute. Richarlison laid the ball into Cleverley on the right edge of the area and the Hornets midfielder returned it back to his teammate with a lovely piece of skill, but the sliding Okaka was just unable to get on the end of the Brazilian’s ball into the six-yard box.

The home side continued to press and thought their efforts were rewarded in the 53rd minute when Wague rose to head in a Cleverley corner, but Atkinson disallowed the goal for a push.

Swansea’s response to that let off was to win three corners – McBurnie coming on for the injured Abraham – and from the last of these Alfie Mawson sent a looping header over the top.

The visitors were gaining encouragement though, and soon after Heurelho Gomes had to make his first save of the match to hold a Narsingh shot after Ayew had rather made a hash of being one-on-one with a defender.

Silva was forced into his first change in the 64th minute when Sebastian Prodl came on for the limping Wague, with the Hornets letting the game drift somewhat without looking like they would come under a sustained threat.

Okaka was replaced by Gray with 13 minutes remaning and then Swansea completed their changes as Nathan Dyer replaced Clucas.

In between times, Doucuoure was booked for lashing out at Ayew and Prodl was soon to join his teammate on a yellow card for a foul on Dyer after Pereyra had replaced Carrillo.

But Watford were conspiring to make this a rather more edgy end to the game than it needed to be, although that should have changed with six minutes to go when Pereyra played a lovely weighted through ball to put Gray through one-on-one with Fabianski. Although the Swansea keeper deserves credit for the save, the Hornets substitute just lacked that composure when he needed it and opted for power.

And the cost of that miss was to be magnified less than a minute later when Narsingh crossed from the right, McBurnie nodded down and Ayew was adjudged to be just onside as he pounced to beat Gomes from close range.

Memories of the defeats at Everton and Crystal Palace were suddenly beginning to loom large again and when Zeegelaar was booked for a foul on Ayew, they were brought back into horrible sharp focus.

Watford failed to clear their lines from the resultant free-kick and when the ball broke for Dyer, he hit a shot from the edge of the area which Gomes was unable to hold and Narsingh gratefully took the opportunity to end Swansea’s run of seven straight away defeats.

The shell-shocked Watford players left the pitch to a chorus of boos and they could have few complaints after again contriving to throw away three points.

Watford: Gomes; Janmaat, Wague (Prodl 64), Kabasele, Zeegelaar; Doucoure, Watson; Carrillo (Pereyra 82), Cleverley, Richarlison; Okaka (Gray 77). Subs not used: Karnezis, Sinclair, Holebas, Capoue.

Swansea City: Fabianski; Naughton, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson; Carroll, Mesa (Narsingh 46), Clucas (Dyer 80), Sanches; Abraham (McBurnie 57), Ayew. Subs not used: Nordfeldt, Van Der Hoorn, Fer, Rangel.

Bookings: Fernandez for a foul on Richarlison (3); Carrillo for a foul on Ayew (29); Carroll for a foul on Doucoure (34); Doucoure for lashing out at Ayew (80); Prodl for a foul on Dyer (82); Zeegelaar for a foul on Ayew (88).

Attendance: 20,002.

Referee: Martin Atkinson.