Watford finally secured the victory which took them over the magical 40 point mark, as the Hornets secured a nervy 2-1 win over Newcastle United at Vicarage Road this afternoon.

The Golden Boys started like a train, with the returning Roberto Pereyra slotting Javi Gracia’s men in front inside two minutes to finish off a good team move.

Andre Gray made it two, as he nodded home Pereyra’s cross at the far post and captain Troy Deeney should have made the points safe on the stroke of half-time, but his penalty was well-saved by Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, who then reacted superbly to keep out the striker’s follow up.

The Golden Boys were made to pay for that missed chance, as Ayoze Perez pulled one back for Newcastle within just ten minutes of the second half and from then, the Hornets looked unsettled, dropping deeper and deeper as the second half wore on.

But unlike recent weeks against Bournemouth and Burnley, Watford did manage to see out a victory on home turf, moving them up to 13th place in the table and quashing any possible fears of the Golden Boys being drawn into a late relegation battle.

Head coach Javi Gracia opted to make three changes to the side which lost to Tottenham Hotspur on Monday. There was a change in formation, too, as Watford reverted to 4-4-2 with Deeney returning to captain the side and partner Gray up top. Elsewhere, Daryl Janmaat came back into the side at right-back, while Roberto Pereyra started out on the left. Adrian Mariappa, Kiko Femeina and Richarlison all dropped to the bench.

Meanwhile Rafa Benitez made two changes to the side which lost to West Bromwich Albion last week, with Javier Manquillo and Jacob Murphy replacing DeAndre Yedlin and Matt Ritchie who both dropped to the bench.

But it was the Hornets who got off to a flying start as they took the lead with their first venture forward, with Pereyra notching his third goal in four home games. Will Hughes picked the ball up on the right and played a lovely ball into the box which was dummied by Deeney into Doucoure. The Frenchman then showed great composure to square to Pereyra inside the area, who calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner to hand the Hornets a dream start.

The Argentine almost had a second minutes later as his attempted chip was well saved by Dubravka, before Deeney’s follow up was well blocked and then Capoue’s curling effort flew just wide of the post courtesy of a deflection.

Another promising opportunity came and went for the Hornets in the twelfth minute when good play from Hughes and Deeney released Gray in a promising position, but the former Burnley striker was flagged for offside just as he was about to pull the trigger.

After a slow start, Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle had their first shot of note in the 15th minute as a cross from Manquillo was allowed to reach former Watford loanee Kenedy at the far post, but his effort was blocked by Gayle and bounced out for a goal kick.

But that was only to be a temporary reprieve for the Magpies as the Hornets continued on the front foot. The Golden Boys were playing some lovely football and they almost notched a second after Deeney drove forward after Capoue had won the ball back in midfield, before releasing Gray in behind Newcastle’s backline, but his first-time effort forced a decent save from Dubravaka.

But Gray wouldn’t have to wait long, as he was to score his first goal in Watford colours for the first time since January moments later. Pereyra had been a real menace down the left in the first half and the Argentine skilfully cut in before sending over a cross which looped over Dubravka and Gray raced in to head the ball home at the far post to double Watford’s advantage.

With just five minutes till half-time, the Golden Boys were then handed a glorious opportunity to notch a third as referee Roger East eventually pointed to the spot after initially hesitating, after Gray was cynically brought down by Paul Dummett as he charged into the area. However, Deeney, who had enjoyed a productive first half, failed to convert his second penalty in a row, as his spot kick was too close to Dubravka, who pulled off a superb save, before then reacting quickly to smother the Watford captain’s follow up.

The Hornets were almost made to pay for that missed spot-kick just moments after half-time, as the unmarked Perez was inches away from tapping home Jonjo Shelvey’s in swinging cross from a couple of yards out.

That was to be a sign of things to come, as Manquillo was allowed to venture forward from right-back, before sending in a deep cross which was tucked home at the far post by Perez to give Newcastle a life-line.

Gerard Deulofeu made his return to action immediately after that Newcastle goal and just a couple of minutes later, Gracia decided to revert to a 3-4-3 formation, as Mariappa replaced Deeney.

That change would almost backfire as Mariappa almost put through his own net with his first touch, as he inadvertently nodded Manquillo’s cross towards goal, but Karnezis did well to make the save.

Newcastle were growing in confidence by this point and the Hornets becoming increasingly unsettled, with a couple of crosses being unconvincingly cleared and Craig Cathcart scrambling the ball away from Dwight Gayle inside the area.

Perez, in particular, was starting to cause the Golden Boys real problems and he was inches away from notching his second of the afternoon, when his flicked effort from Shelvey’s corner flew just wide of the post in the 72nd minute.

Gracia made his third and final sub of the afternoon with just over ten minutes to play, with the productive Gray being replaced by Richarlison.

But Newcastle still had the wind in their sails and they almost scored an equaliser which their second half performance had perhaps merited with just two minutes to play, as Merino latched on to Ritchie’s pull-back but a combination of Mariappa and Cathcart did superbly well to deflect the Spanish midfielder’s effort over the bar.

After the resultant corner had been cleared, Watford broke on the counter-attack as Doucoure released Richarlison who burst forward but failed to show the necessary composure with Deulofeu unmarked on the right, as the Brazilian’s through ball was easily cut out by Lascelles.

But fortunately, the Hornets weren’t made to pay for that chance, as referee Roger East blew his whistle moments later to hand Watford a crucial three points.

Watford: Karnezis (GK), Janmaat, Cathcart, Kabasele, Holebas, Hughes, Capoue, Doucoure, Pereyra (Deulofeu, 56) Gray (Richarlison, 79), Deeney © (Mariappa, 61). 

Subs (Not used) – Gomes (GK), Britos, Femenia, Sinclair.

Booked: Kabasele, Holebas

Newcastle: Dubravka (GK), Manquillo (Yedlin, 67), Lascelles ©, Lejeune, Dummett, Murphy (Ritchie, 53), Diame (Merino, 84), Shelvey, Kenedy, Perez, Gayle.

Subs (Not used) – Darlow (GK), Hayden, Joselu, Haidara.

Booked: Diame, Perez.

Referee – Roger East

Attendance – 20,375