Watford will tonight have to reflect on losing more potentially vital points from a winning position after being pegged back to a 1-1 draw at fellow relegation rivals Brighton & Hove Albion.

Having seen gaining the upper hand end in defeat in their previous two games against Aston Villa and Everton, the Hornets again went in front thanks to a superb Abdoulaye Doucoure strike in the first half.

It was a lead that the visitors seemed to think they were able to defend – and they were doing so until 12 minutes from the end of normal time when disaster struck as Adrian Mariappa turned a cross from substitute Alireza Jahanbakhsh into his own net.

Nigel Pearson made just the one change to the side that lost a two-goal lead and were beaten at the death by Everton last time out, with Will Hughes returning for Nathaniel Chalobah in midfield.

Craig Dawson was fit to return and included on a bench that had a better balance to it, but the Hornets boss opted against including Tom Cleverley or risking Ismail Sarr despite both being back in training.

Although Brighton battled back to draw 3-3 at West Ham United last time out, Graham Potter decided to make four changes to his starting XI, three of which were in defence.

Dan Burn and Shane Duffy were both, a little unexpectedly, deemed fit enough to start, while Ezequiel Schelotto was also included in the new-look backline and Solly March came into the midfield.

Adam Webster and Bernardo dropped to the bench, but Martin Montoya and Dale Stephens were left out of the 18.

The Hornets found themselves pushed back almost from the opening whistle as the Seagulls won three successive early corners, the first coming after Adam Masina had deflected behind an angled shot from March from the right side of the penalty area, while the third one led to a appeal for handball against Hughes, but referee Kevin Friend was in no doubt the midfielder had chested the ball down.

Watford came through that spell though, and had soon settled down but it was the hosts who had the next opening in the 11th minute when March drifted a cross to the back post from the right and Glenn Murray got above his man to head down, however the attempt lacked sufficient power to trouble Ben Foster.

The Hornets keeper then had to be smartly off his line after Aaron Mooy tried to slide Murray in as the Seagulls continued to have the majority of the exchanges, but the complexion of the game was to change dramatically in the 19th minute.

Brighton were once again in possession but Etienne Capoue made a crucial interception from Aaron Mooy on halfway, sending the ball into the path of Doucoure who ran at pace at the heart of the retreating defence before cracking a right-footed right past Mat Ryan from the edge of the 18-yard box to fire his side in front.

Mooy sent a shot over from 20 yards as Brighton tried to respond, but their opponents were now knocking the ball around with increasing confidence, with Hughes the next to try his luck with a shot that was deflected wide.

Foster had to be alert to deal with a March delivery from the right before there was a nervous moment in defence when Craig Cathcart headed back to his keeper from close proximity after the ball had skewed off Christian Kabasele’s head.

Schelotto’s picked up the game’s first booking in the 34th minute after catching Gerard Deulofeu late, but soon after Cathcart did well to deal with a dangerous Leandro Trossard cross from the left after Burn had flicked the ball into his path.

The Seagulls fans were appealing for a penalty again three minutes before the break when Schelotto went down under pressure from Deulofeu, but the incident was not even subjected to a full VAR check as the visitors took their one-goal lead into the break.

The pattern of the game resumed after the break, with the Seagulls having the bulk of the ball, but their opponents looked composed in their structure as they got numbers behind play and were seemingly content to challenge their hosts to try and break that down.

A miscued clearance Foster threatened to undo that, as neither Hughes nor Capoue could deal with possession, and the ball was played out to Schelotto, who fizzed in a low delivery from the right that was too far ahead of Murray.

Potter made his first change in the 57th minute, bringing on Neal Maupay for Burn, meaning March moved from right midfield to left-back as the switch was made from 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-2.

Deulofeu, who was having a relatively quiet game offensively, threatened soon after when he came inside off the left but dragged his shot wide of the near post.

A second Brighton substitution followed in the 61st minute as Steven Alzate replaced Pascal Gross before Hughes and Mariappa were both booked for fouls within a minute of each other.

Watford were seemingly continuing to back themselves to hold firm in the face of the Seagulls pressure but without much in the way of quality as the halfway point of the second half ticked past.

Potter made his final change in the 73rd minute as Jahanbakhsh came on for Schelotto, but it came while Adam Masina was down receiving treatment for a shoulder injury following a clash with Murray.

It offered a period of respite but Brighton were soon back on the front foot with Mooy working a give-and-go with Maupay before he burst into the area and tried to beat Foster with a shot across his body, only to be thwarted by the outstretched left leg of the keeper.

Brighton didn’t have long to wait to pull level though, as after gaining possession in midfield the ball was worked out to Jahanbakhsh on the right and he played a low cross into the six-yard box which Mariappa, under no real pressure but presumably thinking an opponent was behind him, turned into the roof of his own net.

Pearson, visibly angered by the goal, brought on fresh legs in Ignacio Pussetto for Roberto Pereyra and soon after Danny Welbeck was introduced for Deulofeu.

The game was on a knife edge as the game entered five minutes of stoppage time, but not before the Seagulls had created another opening when a Jahanbakhsh cross from the right was flicked over the top by March.

Neither side were able to conjure up one last opportunity as the Hornets were left to settle for a point and still in the bottom three heading into their enforced two-week break.

Brighton & Hove Albion: Ryan; Schelotto (Jahanbakhsh (73), Duffy, Dunk, Burn (Maupay 57); Propper, Mooy; March, Gross (Alzate 61), Trossard; Murray. Subs not used: Button, Webster, Bernardo, Connolly.

Watford: Foster; Mariappa, Kabasele, Cathcart, Masina; Capoue, Hughes; Pereyra (Pussetto 82), Doucoure, Deulofeu (Welbeck 86); Deeney. Subs not used: Gomes, Dawson, Chalobah, Gray, Holebas.

Bookings: Schelotto for a foul on Deulofeu (34); Hughes for a foul on Maupay (64); Mariappa for a foul on March (65); March for dissent (90).

Attendance: 30,443.

Referee: Kevin Friend.