Watford’s hopes of securing seventh place in the Premier League suffered a huge blow after Wolverhampton Wanderers avenged their FA Cup semi-final defeat with a 2-1 victory at Vicarage Road.

As they had done at Wembley, Wolves struck first through Raul Jimenez, but the Hornets were to get back on terms early in the second half as Andre Gray continued his fine home run scoring run.

Javi Gracia’s men were unable to kick on from that though, and it was the visitors who moved four points clear of their opponents with just two games remaining after Diogo Jota scored what proved to be the winner after Ben Foster had come for a Ruben Neves cross but didn't get there, leaving himself stranded in no man's land.

The first half had been predictably tight, with most of the key moments happening in the last third of the opening period.

Etienne Capoue produced a superb clearance off the line to deny Jimenez before Will Hughes should have scored at the other end when he headed over from inside the six-yard box.

But it was Wolves who made the breakthrough shortly before the interval when Jimenez capitalised on a superb cross from Jota – and some poor Hornets defending.

The home side’s fortunes were looking back up soon after the restart though, when Gray equalised following a dreadful mistake from Ryan Bennett.

The outcome remained too close to call, but it was the visitors who were to take a big step towards securing seventh place when a classy Jota finish converted a sweeping pass from Neves that Foster belatedly came for, but didn’t get near.

Javi Gracia once again shuffled his defensive ranks for his 50th Premier League game at the Hornets’ helm, making three changes from the team that snatched a late 1-1 draw against Southampton on Tuesday.

The hosts were boosted by the return to fitness of Jose Holebas, who returned to the starting XI alongside Kiko Femenia and Adrian Mariappa. Daryl Janmaat, Adam Masina and Christian Kabasele dropped to the bench.

Wolves, as expected, were unchanged from the side that continued their fine record against the so-called ‘big six’ by beating Arsenal 3-1 on Wednesday.

The Hornets made a rather cautious start but they almost carved out the first real opening inside four minutes when Gray did well to turn and find Gerard Deulofeu, who beat his first man as he broke into the area but in doing so got too much on the ball and Wolves were able to deal with the danger.

In general though, it was the visitors who looked the sharper in the opening stages, with their opponents a little sluggish out of the blocks.

The Hornets did win their first corner in the 12th minute which Jose Holebas took deep from the right, Capoue headed back into the danger zone and although Abdoulaye Doucoure missed his kick, it broke for Roberto Pereyra on the edge of the 18-yard box, but his effort was blocked.

The hosts began to enjoy a far greater share of possession thereafter, but they could have been in trouble in the 19th minute when Raul Jimenez sent Matt Doherty racing clear on the right on the counter-attack, but the wing-back’s attempted cross was well cut out by the head of Craig Cathcart.

Neves then chanced his arm with a speculative 30-yard strike, which although Foster was comfortably behind, it was worth a try in the gusty conditions.

Watford had a better opportunity in the 23rd minute when Hughes took a blow to the head as he ducked into a header, but referee Simon Hooper played advantage as Pereyra immediately released Deulofeu, who had isolated Willy Boly one-on-one on the right side of the area, only to slip as he shaped to shoot.

Gracia’s men were starting to up the ante with Pereya, as he had done at Wembley, operating behind the front two and looking to pull the strings, next sending Deulofeu away on the right, but his low cross into the near post was deflected into the side netting.

But it was the Hornets who would have been behind in the 34th minute had it not been for a fantastic goal-saving intervention from Capoue.

The home side were caught on the counter by a sparkling Diogo Jota run, he played in Leander Dendoncker on the right and the Belgian’s low cross looked set to be bundled in by Jimenez, but Capoue read the danger and reacted superbly to clear off the line.

Wolves could have been in front but within five minutes they could equally have been in behind.

The visitors were opened up when a Hughes pass set Deulofeu away in the area, but Bennett did well to get back and dispossess the Spaniard and concede the corner. That set piece was again taken deep, Pereyra was able to retrieve the ball on the right side of the area and cross beyond the far post where Adrian Mariappa was to head back into the danger zone where Hughes had a free header but headed badly over the target from four yards out. It was to prove a costly miss.

The home side had the opportunity to clear their lines but when the ball came out to Pereyra, he was weak in a challenge with Neves, who was able to play the ball to his left for Jota, who played in a superb cross and Jimenez’s run had not been picked up and he was able to finish unmarked past Foster to make it 1-0.

The Hornets responded positively to that setback, with more good play from Hughes finding Gray in a good position on the area, but as he pulled the trigger he got a tug from Jonny and sliced his effort as well. The striker had cause to question the referee, but Hooper was unmoved and the Hornets went into the break a goal down.

They weren’t to be behind for much of the second half though.

A dreadful mistake from Bennett saw him present the ball on the plate for Deulofeu with only Rui Patricio to beat, the keeper got something on it but Gray was once again in the right place, following up to fire into the net to make it 1-1 and score his fifth goal in his last seven appearances at Vicarage Road.

The next opening to Wolves’ way and again their opponents had to question themselves after Holebas and Pereyra failed to clear the ball on the left, ultimately allowing Doherty to get in a cross from the right which was just too high for Jota, who headed over the top.

Back came Watford with Gray and Pereyra combining to send Deulofeu away on the left, only for the Spaniard to put his cross too close to Rui Patricio.

Joao Moutinho received the game’s first yellow card for a body-check on Hughes, but the booking count was soon levelled up when Holebas left a forearm in on Jota – a challenge that had parallels with Troy Deeney’s sending off against Arsenal.

The game was finely poised as it entered its final quarter but Watford were the side trying to force the issue and they had the next chance in the 72nd minute when a Mariappa cross-field ball was nodded down by Doucoure, but Pereyra dragged his first-time effort wide of the near post.

Gracia made the first change in the 74th minute, bringing on Kabasele for Hughes and with it came the change of system to three at the back.

Joao Moutinho saw a well-struck 20-yard effort deflected narrowly over but in the 77th minute they were back in front with a classy second goal.

Neves was the instigator with a superb searching cross from the right, Foster came for it only to get stranded in no man’s land and Jota had timed his run superbly to side-foot home on the volley at the far post.

Watford’s problems soon intensified with Cathcart feeling his hamstring, but it took a couple of minutes until they were able to get Isaac Success on in his place.

The substitute was soon to be picking up a yellow card for a foul on Dendoncker after Jota had also received the same punishment for dissent.

Five minutes of additional time afforded the Hornets hope but, in truth, they had offered relatively little in the final third since equalising and in they were fortunate not to be in position to concede a third when a mistake from Mariappa allowed Jota to run into the area and Kabasele slid into him.

The Hornets centre-half emerged with the ball, but replays showed he had taken the man first after Hooper had given the Belgian the benefit of the decision.

Frustration threatened to get the better of Capoue when he was booked following an injury-time scuffle with Jota, but it was Wolves who came out on top and took a big step to finishing as the so-called ‘best of the rest’.

Watford: Foster; Femenia, Mariappa, Cathcart (Success 81), Holebas; Hughes (Kabasele 74), Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra; Deulofeu, Gray. Subs not used: Gomes, Janmaat, Masina, Sema, Chalobah.

Wolverhampton Wanderers: Rui Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves, Joao Moutinho, Jonny; Jimenez (Cavaliero 86), Jota (Gibbs-White 90). Subs not used: Ruddy, Costa, Saiss, Vinagre, Traore.

Bookings: Joao Mountinho for a foul on Hughes (61); Holebas for a foul on Jota (63); Jota for dissent (84); Success for a foul on Dendoncker (85); Capoue for a foul on Jota (90).

Referee: Simon Hooper.