Watford moved another point towards Premier League safety after an intriguing lunchtime kick-off against Tottenham Hotspur ended in a 0-0 draw.

The game largely lacked clear-cut goalmouth incident but there was no shortage of effort and commitment as the Hornets spurned a gilt-edged chance to win, but equally came very close to losing it at the death.

The potential match-winning moment came with just over 20 minutes to go when Michael Oliver had no hesitation in pointing to the spot after a Gerard Deulofeu shot was blocked by the arm of Jan Vertonghen.

Troy Deeney struck the penalty well enough, but rather than go down the middle of the goal he opted to put it to Paulo Gazzaniga’s right and the Spurs keeper chose correctly to keep it out.

The Hornets were worthy of at least a point for their efforts, but Erik Lamela almost snatched the win at the death, only for debutant Ignacio Pussetto – who had only been on the pitch a few minutes – to clear off his own goalline with the whole ball a matter of millimetres from being over the line.

Following the impressive display at Bournemouth in which all contributed to positive effect and with no fresh injury problems, Nigel Pearson opted to name an unchanged starting line-up.

Christian Kabasele had to settle for a place on the bench following his return from suspension, with new arrival Pussetto also among the replacements. Tom Dele-Bashiru and Isaac Success were the players to drop out of the 18.

Spurs reached the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 2-1 replay victory over Middlesbrough in midweek, but Jose Mourinho’s team showed that changes from the one that started the 1-0 defeat to Liverpool last weekend.

Vertonghen, Giovani Lo Celso and Erik Lamela were the trio to come into the side, with Davinson Sanchez and – despite the Spurs boss saying he would start – Christian Eriksen dropping to the bench, while Danny Rose was not involved. New signing Gedson Fernandes was also among the substitutes.

The Hornets were turned around and had to attack the Rookery in the first half, but after seeing their opponents dominate possession in the first couple of minutes the hosts had the first shot when a lovely Ismaila Sarr pass inside released Gerard Deulofeu on the counter and he ran at the Spurs defence before shooting wide of Gazzaniga’s left-hand post.

Ben Foster made his first stop soon after, a routine save to hold a Son Heung-min shot at his near post, but the South Korean had made a lively start and had caused Adrian Mariappa problems from the outset.

Lamela dragged a shot wide from 20 yards after cutting in from his right-sided berth as the visitors continued to boss the early exchanges, with young full-back Japhet Tanganga the next to try his luck from outside the area, but again Foster was not unduly concerned by it.

Watford were remaining compact though, and had an opportunity in the 18th minute when Abdoulaye Doucoure dispossessed Harry Winks on the left before accelerating towards the area and cutting the ball back to Sarr. The Senegal winger couldn’t get a shot away first time on his left foot, but held on to the ball before trying a right-footed curling effort which he fired wide.

Tanganga hauled down Sarr, earning a yellow card as a result, after leaving himself with little alternative otherwise his lapse would have let the Hornets man in on the right side of the area, but the hosts were starting to enjoy more play in the Tottenham half.

A lengthy – and irritating – stoppage in play happened approaching the half-hour mark due to an apparent problem with a piece of the referee’s equipment, bringing about chants of ‘this isn’t football anymore’ from both sets of fans. However, this looked to have saved Etienne Capoue from a potential VAR card red card review following a hefty and late challenge on Tanganga.

Spurs made the sharper start when play did resume, with Foster forced to hold a shot from Son, but Watford were soon back on the front foot as Sarr got away from Tanganga on the right and his low delivery into the area was met with a backheeled flick from Deeney, sending the ball tantalisingly across the six-yard box.

Gazzaniga was then forced to back track to tip away a cross-cum-shot from Nathaniel Chalobah before Capoue evened up the card count when he scythed down Lo Celso.

Watford were on top as the half drew to a close but they had Foster to thank in the 38th minute when Dele Alli broke from halfway and slipped in Lucas Moura, but the Hornets keeper was alert to the danger and moved sharply off his line to block.

The Hornets were caught out again soon after when a fine long-range ball over the top from Winks picked out Son on the left side of the area, but the South Korean opted to try a first-time volley and put it well over the top.

Back came the Hornets with Sarr releasing the overlapping Mariappa on the right, his cross was cleared to the edge of the area where Chalobah decided against a shot and instead clipped the ball towards Deeney, but he was unable to generate enough power on his header to trouble Gazzaniga.

The home side continued their strong finish to the half with Capoue winning the ball back and advancing before playing it to Sarr, who worked a give-and-go and was able to dig a cross out from the byline, but was unable to pick out a team-mate.

Sarr was at it again within two minutes of the resumption, getting away from Tanganga and teasing Toby Alderweireld before his low delivery was dummied by Deeney but Doucoure wasn’t able to get the touch he wanted and sliced an effort wide of the near post.

Another opportunity came and went a few minutes later when Chalobah drilled over a cross from the right, Deeney headed down but Sarr’s touch let him down when it was needed most.

The Hornets were in difficulty soon after though, when Winks played the ball to Son on the right and his deep cross picked out the head of Alli, but the England international was unable to keep his header down.

Deeney had a shot from the other end deflected wide of the far post as the Hornets continued to knock at the door, only for the temperature to rise a few more degrees on the hour when Winks and Doucoure were both involved in a scuffle. Oliver opted to show both yellow cards and a VAR check ruled that no further disciplinary action was required.

The game remained finely poised and the Hornets defence was playing catch-up when Son was set free but he fired over the angle of post and bar.

Another VAR check was required, this time for possible handball, when a Lamela effort was deflected behind, but the award of a corner remained the decision.

Technology was to be needed for a third time in the 69th minute. The decision again remained unchaged but Watford were unable to capitalise on it.

The Hornets had a really spell of pressure in and around the Tottenham box and when Deulofeu fired in a shot Oliver had no hesitation in awarding a penalty for handball against Vertonghen.

After the Belgian was booked and the decision was reviewed, Deeney took the penalty and went to Gazzaniga’s right but the keeper guessed correctly, diving to make a fine save to keep the spot-kick out.

With a chorus of ‘there’s only one Graham Taylor’ ringing out in the 72nd minute, Mourinho made the first change, bringing on Eriksen for Alli.

More substitutions followed as Roberto Pereyra came on for Chalobah, while Fernandes came on for his Spurs debut in place of Lo Celso.

The visitors had a couple of promising moments as the closing stages beckoned but were unable to test Foster until he had to drop down to parry a cut-back from Serge Aurier after a lapse from Mariappa had given Son the chance to start an attack.

Pussetto came on for his Hornets debut with a minute of normal time remaining after Sarr picked up an injury before the signal of four minutes additional time afforded both sides further hope of snatching a late winner.

It was very nearly Spurs who got it when the Hornets found themselves dragged about at the back and Aurier’s low cross was turned goalwards by Lamela but Pussetto got back to clear off the line as an absorbing encounter finished with the spoils shared.

Watford: Foster; Mariappa, Dawson, Cathcart, Masina; Chalobah (Pereyra 79), Capoue, Sarr (Pussetto 89), Doucoure, Deulofeu; Deeney. Subs not used: Gomes, Gray, Quina, Holebas, Kabasele.

Tottenham Hotspur: Gazzaniga; Aurier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Tanganga; Winks, Lo Celso (Fernandes 79); Lamela, Alli (Eriksen 72), Son; Moura. Subs not used: Vorm, Sanchez, Dier, Sessegnon, Skipp.

Bookings: Tanganga for a foul on Sarr (19); Capoue for a foul on Lo Celso (35); Winks for off-the-ball incident with Doucoure (60); Doucuoure for off-the-ball incident with Winks (60); Vertonghen for handball (69).

Referee: Michael Oliver.