Watford ended their winless run with a 3-2 victory over Cardiff City, but they were ultimately made to work for their points.

Neil Warnock’s men have just one point on the road this season and the Hornets resigned them to another away defeat, but two goals in the last ten minutes for the visitors set up a nervy finish.

Javi Gracia made just one change to the team that so nearly snatched all three points away at Everton on Monday evening, with Isaac Success replaced by Gerard Deulofeu as they went in search of their first win since the end of October.

It took just six minutes for the hosts to create their first real chance in a game they would go on to dominate for the most part.

A nice give and go between Abdoulaye Doucoure and Gerard Deulofeu by the side of the penalty area saw the latter just outside the corner of the six-yard box in plenty of space, but he could not curl his effort into the far corner and put it just wide of the post.

Josh Murphy and Junior Hoilett then started causing some minor problems down both wings, with Kiko Femenia and Jose Holebas struggling to keep up with their pace, but they fail to produce anything of consequence and the Hornets came through that brief period with little to worry about.

A moment of patient passing play then followed from Watford, but a resolute Bluebirds’ defence initially knocked back their persistent advances and seemed like they had the wherewithal to prevent any real threat.

However, Watford’s patience eventually paid off and the breakthrough came just after quarter-of-an-hour. Deulofeu picked the ball up in space just outside the area following a defensive mix up. The Spaniard danced through the Cardiff defence like a knife through butter before rolling the ball calmly past the helpless Neil Etheridge to give the home side a much deserved lead.

Just four minutes later and Watford nearly produced another goal through yet more patience and some intricate passing.

Roberto Pereyra and Troy Deeney linked up with some neat backheels on the edge of the area and the former seemed to be in on goal, but a heavy touch let him down and Etheridge was able to thwart the danger.

Cardiff then produced their first shot on goal just after the 23rd minute when Callum Paterson received the ball from Hoilett on the right.

He snatched at the shot and put it well wide, but it was a sign that Cardiff had a bit of fight in them.

They created another chance just moments later when a dangerous Harry Arter ball flashed across the face of goal and was only inches away from finding the feet of Murphy with the goal at his mercy.

The visitors were in the ascendency and another chance fell to Paterson just before the half-hour mark. A header was flicked in his direction by Cardiff skipper Sean Morrison from a corner but the full-back turned striker failed to get the right power or direction on his effort and nodded wide of Ben Foster’s goal.

Paterson then had his best opportunity of the first half in the 38th minute after Hoilett lofted a seemingly perfect cross into the area from the right hand side.

Paterson found himself unmarked in the six-yard box, but mistimed his header and jumped underneath the ball. Femenia at the back post dangerously headed back towards Foster who, despite being mid-dive, managed to keep hold of the ball and prevented either a goal or a corner.

Watford finished the half on the front foot with two chances falling to Pereyra, but on both ocassions were thwarted by Etheridge.

The first came after Ken Sema broke down the right hand side before knocking it back to Deulofeu on the edge of the area.

His teasing ball found Pereyra in the box via a clever dummy from Deeney, but Etheridge raced off his line quickly and narrowed down the angle enough for him to deny the shot. One that will have stung the palms in the bitingly cold conditions.

Then in injury time, Pereyra was tripped just outside the 18-yard box and he stepped up to curl a tantalising effort on target, but a sprawling Etheridge denied the midfielder once again and the Hornets took their one goal advantage in at half-time.

The second period started as the first had ended with Pereyra once again denied by Etheridge just a few minutes after the break. Sema rolled the ball into his path just inside the 18 yard box, but the Argentine’s shot was kept out with a strong hand by the keeper, who was at full stretch.

Watford maintained their relentless pressure on the Cardiff defence and they were rewarded for it 10 minutes into the second half.

More patient build-up play had forced the Bluebirds to defend deep inside their own half. Deulofeu once again justified his place in the starting line-up by rolling a neat ball into the path Holebas on the edge of the area from out wide on the left. The Greek defender clipped a delicious effort over all in the box and out of the reach of Etheridge to double the home side’s advantage.

Watford stepped off the gas a bit following the second goal and an ugly midfield battle ensued for a period of around 20 minutes. This played into Cardiff’s hands and allowed them back into the game a bit, but for all their efforts, a somewhat harmless effort from Victor Camarasa that trickled wide of the mark was all they had to show for it.

Watford then took the game to the visitors once again and soon after found themselves three up when Domingos Quina curled in from the edge of the box to get his first goal at Vicarage Road and to earn himself the title of the Hornets' youngest ever Premier League goal scorer.

A neat pass from Deeney picked out the 19 year old 25 yards out in plenty of space. His glorious first-time shot curled out of reach of the despairing Etheridge, who once again could have done nothing to prevent the finish.

The Hornets nearly made it four on 69 minutes when Pereyra was given the chance to beat Etheridge once again, following some very poor defensive play from the visitors inside their own box. Pereyra improvised a volley off his knee after a stray pass gifted him a free shot on goal, but the keeper stretched out a hand and tipped it around the post.

Javi Gracia sensed blood and the introduction of Isaac Success for Ken Sema encouraged his side to attack further.

The change almost extended Watford’s lead instantly, with the Nigerian’s first touch of the ball playing Deulofeu in behind the Cardiff defence, but the former Barcelona winger clipped the top of the bar from a tight angle.

It seemed like the three points were all but wrapped up but the Bluebirds had other ideas.

The travelling Cardiff fans were first given something to cheer about with a goal in the 80th minute. Canadian winger Hoilett produced a fine finish of his own from the edge of the area to dampen the mood inside Vicarage Road and encourage the away side to try and snatch an unlikely draw.

Cardiff then put themselves within touching distance of a point after substitute Bobby Reid finished from a goalmouth scramble with the ball pinging around off a number of bodies in a crowded box. Reid first tried to score with a backheel before he finished from the rebound to set up a tense finish to the match.

Watford pushed forward and tried to keep possession in Cardiff’s defensive third with time on their side. Tom Cleverley made his return from injury and replaced Deeney for the final eight minutes to sure up the midfield.

The Hornets almost regained their two-goal advantage when Doucoure thumped an effort goalwards, only for Etheridge to tip the shot over the bar.

The final moments of the game were anything but pretty but a determined Watford did just enough to see the game out and finally put an end to their winless streak.

Watford: Foster, Femenia, Kabasele, Cathcart, Holebas; Sema (Success 69), Doucoure, Quina, Pereyra; Deeney (Okaka 83), Deulofeu (Cleverley 86). Subs not used: Gomes, Mariappa, Masina, Chalobah, Okaka.

Cardiff City: Etheridge; Bennett (Peltier 59), Morrison, Manga, Arter, Murphy (Mendez-Laing 46), Patterson, Gunnarsson (Reid 78), Camarasa, Bamba, Hoilett. Subs not used: Smithies, Ralls, Zohore, Reid, Harris