Games against Leicester City have a habit of producing drama and this lunchtime delivered it again as Andre Gray scored an injury-time winner to secure a 2-1 victory at Vicarage Road.

It looked like the Hornets would have to settle for a point after Jamie Vardy cancelled out Troy Deeney’s early header, but in the third minute of stoppage time the skipper superbly hooked the ball forward for the substitute to net with a fine composed finish and spark bedlam inside the ground – and leave former Hornets boss Brendan Rodgers contemplating a defeat on his return to English football.

The home side had earlier made a flying start as Deeney headed them into an early lead from a Gerard Deulofeu free-kick, but they were unable to build on that despite having some promising attacking moments in the first half.

An Abdoulaye Doucuore shot apart, Watford increasingly struggled attacking-wise after the break as their frustration with referee Jon Moss’ decisions mounted. And it came as no great surprise when Vardy equalised after being set away by Youri Tielemens.

Leicester looked the most likely to go on and win it at that stage, but Watford had other ideas as they secured their 12th win of the campaign, equalling the club’s record for a Premier League season.

Despite Watford’s heavy defeat at Liverpool on Wednesday night, Javi Gracia was never likely to make wholesale changes and so it proved with the only alteration being the return of Jose Holebas, having served his two-match suspension, who came back into the starting XI for Adam Masina.

Rodgers also made one change for his first match at the Leicester City helm, but the implications of it were fascinating as he switched to three at the back with captain Wes Morgan coming into the back three, with Demari Gray the player to make way.

But the new Foxes manager’s reign almost got off to the worst possible start inside three minutes when the Hornets almost nearly with their first opportunity.

Following a foul on Daryl Janmaat on the right, Holebas whipped a free-kick towards the six-yard box which Morgan made a mess of dealing with and the ball broke ideally for Adrian Mariappa, only to be thwarted by a superb save by Kasper Schmeichel, and Deulofeu saw his follow-up blocked by Morgan.

Leicester were not so fortunate within the next two minutes though.

The visitors again conceded a free-kick, this time on the opposite side of the pitch, and Deulofeu hit the free-kick in at pace towards the near post where Deeney got up first to flick a header beyond the helpless Schmeichel to give the Hornets the fifth-minute advantage.

The movement of Vardy and Harvey Barnes soon started to cause problems as the visitors sought a quick response, but the former England striker was soon to be flat on his back after a nasty collision with Ben Foster.

The situation arose after Mariappa had been booked for pulling back Vardy and the resultant free-kick was clipped towards the striker, who was clattered into by the goalkeeper as he went to punch clear. It was a worrying scene as medical staff raced onto the pitch, but after a couple of minutes treatment both players were back on their feet and able to continue.

Leicester created the next opportunity in the 18th minute when a cross-field ball from the right picked out Ben Chilwell on the opposite side of the 18-yard area, he volleyed back towards the near post where Barnes stabbed an effort over the top.

The visitors were having the bulk of the possession, but Watford were offering a real threat on the counter and after Will Hughes had done well to retain possession on the left, Etienne Capoue clipped a pass into the inside right channel for Deeney to run on to. The skipper centred first time into the six-yard box where Doucoure sought to get on the end of it, but Ricardo Pereira had tracked across well and won the challenge.

It was then Watford’s turn to have the better of the possession and it resulted in them having another chance in the 32nd minute; Deulofeu warming Schmeichel’s gloves with a drive from the left angle of the area after being fed by Roberto Pereyra.

More curious officiating from Moss saw Leicester have the next opening which Barnes created for himself, running across the face of the area before hitting a left-footed shot which was deflected behind.

After a first half which ebbed and flowed throughout, it was the Hornets who finished it the stronger with a couple of promising attacks foundered at the sharp end as the home side took their early advantage into the break.

The pattern of the game continued after the restart, with both sides having spells on the ball, but the first opportunity went the Foxes way with Wilfred Ndidi chancing his arm from 20 yards, without unduly troubling Foster.

Soon after though, Deulofeu did well to wriggle away into space on the left side of the area, he laid the ball into Pereyra, who in turn teed up Doucoure to hit a well-struck curling effort from outside the 18-yard box that forced Schmeichel to plunge to his left to save.

It takes a lot for the usually calm and collected Hornets head coach to loose his temper, but he was getting increasingly agitated by some of Moss’ decisions and his mood would not have been improved by the sight of the referee yellow carding three of his players in the space of two minutes.

Capoue was the first to be cautioned for repeat offending after a foul on James Maddison, Doucoure quickly joined his teammate for dissent and then in a separate incident Deeney saw yellow for catching Schmeichel as he slid in on the Leicester keeper.

Rodgers made the game’s first change in the 65th minute, bringing on Demari Gray for Barnes and three minutes later Andre Gray entered the fray at the expense of Deulofeu.

The Hornets were continuing to look largely comfortable though, but that changed dramatically when the visitors equalised, although their opponents had reason to feel aggrieved.

Harry Maguire was all over Deeney when he won a header just short of halfway, but Tielemens was allowed to advance unhindered before slipping a pass in behind where Vardy had run off Mariappa and was able to lift the ball over the advancing Foster to make it 1-1.

Both Leicester players were then to make way, Tielemens replaced by Nampalys Mendy, while Vardy had picked up a knock and made way for Kelechi Iheanacho.

There was plenty of ironic jeering when Ricardo Pereira was booked for a foul on Deeney, but the Foxes looked the more likely to find a winner and they almost did in the last minute of normal time when, following two corners in succession, Morgan headed a Maddison cross from the left narrowly wide.

It looked like the Hornets would have to settle for a point, but in the third minute of injury time a poor clearance form Schmeichel was headed straight back in the direction it came, Deeney superbly hooked it forward and Andre Gray was immediately on the move, latching on to the ball with a superb first touch before dinking the ball over Schmeichel to score in the third minute of stoppage time.

The Hornets were still forced into some dramatic defending at the end, with Foster sticking out a leg to divert away a Maddison shot, but they held on to clinch another dramatic triumph in a clash against the Foxes.

Watford: Foster; Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas; Hughes (Cleverley 90), Doucoure, Capoue, Pereya; Deulofeu (A Gray 68), Deeney. Subs not used: Gomes, Success, Masina, Quina, Kabasele.

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Evans, Morgan, Maguire; Ricardo, Ndidi, Tielemans (Mendy 82), Maddison, Chilwell; Barnes (D Gray 65), Vardy (Iheanacho 82). Subs not used: Ward, Soyuncu, Fuchs, Ghezzal.

Bookings: Mariappa for a foul on Vardy (13); Capoue for a foul on Maddison (60); Doucoure for dissent (60); Deeney for a foul on Schmeichel (62); Ricardo for a foul on Deeney (84); A Gray for removing shirt (90).

Referee: Jon Moss.