Watford are out of the relegation zone tonight after storming to a stunning 3-0 victory over champions elect Liverpool in a result that will reverberate around the football world.

This was supposed to be the day when the Reds set a new record of 19 consecutive Premier League wins and move within three more victories of the title. Instead, it is the Hornets who should take all the headlines after superbly executing a game plan and capitalising on their chances in the second half to run out thoroughly deserving winners as they gained a huge lift in their quest to retain their top-flight status.

Watford were at it from the off, keeping their shape, showing good discipline and defending well as they created the better of the chances in the first half.

Gerard Deulofeu and Troy Deeney had the best of these but the opening period was to be marred by a serious-looking injury for the Spaniard who twisted his knee following a challenge by Virgil Van Dijk.

Ben Foster was to be the first keeper called into action after the break, but his effort in denying Andy Robertson was, incredibly, the only time the Hornets stopper was really extended all afternoon. What happened afterwards will go down in Watford folklore.

The all-important breakthrough came soon after when the home side were sharper at a throw-in and Ismaila Sarr pounced on Abdoulaye Doucoure’s pull back.

If that shocked the visitors, they were seriously rocking soon after when Deeney sent the Senegal winger scampering clear to beat Alisson with a calmness of finish that oozed confidence.

The gloss was then applied by Deeney after Sarr turned creator following an awful mistake by Trent Alexander-Anrold.

Nigel Person made two changes to the team that started the 2-0 defeat at Manchester United, but both were significant with Sarr and Kiko Femenia able to return to the starting XI following their respective hamstring problems. Craig Dawson and Roberto Pereyra made way and dropped to the bench.

Jurgen Klopp also made two enforced changes in personnel to the starting XI that came from behind for a record-equalling 18th consecutive Premier League victory by beating West Ham United 3-2 on Monday.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came in for Naby Keita, who missed out with a sore hip, while Joe Gomez was left out as a precautionary measure, with Dejan Lovren taking his place.

The Hornets went into the game knowing they were now three points from safety following the afternoon results and their task could have become harder with less than two minutes on the clock when a stray Adam Masina pass allowed Mohamed Salah to find Roberto Firmino on the right side of the penalty area but Will Hughes dealt with the threat well.

Conversely though, Alisson gave the home side early optimism with a couple of poor clearances before Watford had the first attempt of the game when Masina found Deulofeu, who came inside off the right before shooting wide of the near post.

Watford had started well, playing with good structure and organisation – as they needed to – and they had another opportunity in the tenth minute when Sarr got away from Andy Robertson, laid the ball inside to Doucuoure who in turn fed the ball to Deulofeu and he again came inside before curling a shot onto the roof of the net.

Good defensive work by Giorginio Wijnaldum prevented Hughes from having a clear shooting opportunity in the 18-yard box after Deeney had released Doucoure. Then Deulofeu picked Salah’s pocket and played a one-two with Deeney to get into space on the left before the Spaniard pulled the ball back for Doucuoure, whose first-time effort was blocked by Virgil van Dijk.

There was a anxious moment when Salah fired into the side netting following some Liverpool buuld-up play but, by and large, it had been an excellent opening 20 minutes from the Hornets in which they had sought to take the battle to their opponents.

A fascinating contest continued to unfold but it was to take a horrible twist just after the half-hour mark when Deulofeu lost out in a challenge to Van Dijk and his knee twisted as he planted his foot.

The Spaniard, who had troubled his opponents from the outset, received several minutes of treatment before he was stretchered off and replaced by Pereyra.

Deeney looked fortunate to escape punishment for a lunge on Alexander-Arnold as Liverpool looked to up the ante in the latter stages of the first half, with Sadio Mane heading wide when the visitors had men over in one attacking situation.

Unsurprisingly following Deulofeu’s injury, five minutes were added to the end of the first half – and it so nearly ended with the Hornets taking the lead.

A Masina free-kick from the left was only half cleared and as Doucoure hooked the ball back into the box, Deeney was clearly being held in front of referee Michael Oliver. Play continued though, and the Hornets skipper broke free as Alisson was unable to cleanly gather, seeing one effort blocked before sending the follow-up narrowly wide of the far post.

Another good opportunity presented itself within a minute of the restart when Christian Kabasele’s long ball forward was missed by Lovren, allowing Pereyra to gather and slip through the supporting Sarr who hit a first-time left-footed effort which Alisson tipped over.

It had, perhaps surprisingly, been a relatively quiet game for Foster but he was forced into his first save when Robertson got in behind the defence for the first time to latch onto Van Dijk’s through ball, but the Hornets keeper saved his angled drive well and was then relieved – after some defensive indecision – to see Craig Cathcart head the ball back to him.

Within a couple of minutes though, the roof was to be lifted off Vicarage Road.

The Hornets were mentally sharper from a throw-in on the left, as Doucoure did well to turn his man at the near post and Sarr was alert to the possibility and caught Robertson out as he reacted quickest to prod home a potentially huge goal in the 54th minute.

It was to get even better six minutes later.

Hughes, tight to the touchline beneath the Graham Taylor Stand, was somehow allowed to squeeze a ball through to Deeney, who played an instant first-time pass on the turn and Sarr was on to it in an instant, goal-side of Van Dijk and sprinting clear before calmly clipping the ball over the onrushing Alisson to double Watford’s advantage.

Liverpool were seriously rattled and Klopp responded by bringing on Adam Lallana and Divock Origi for Wijnaldum and Oxlade-Chamberlain. In between times though, the home side were not far away from getting a third when the Reds’ defence were all at sea as Deeney pulled the ball back for Hughes, who would have at least tested Alisson had Sarr not got in the way.

But it was, incredibly, to get better for the Hornets when a dreadful back pass from Alexander-Arnold was latched on to by Sarr and with the Reds keeper stranded he laid the ball across for Deeney to calmly pick his spot and make it 3-0 to the home side.

Klopp made his final change with 11 minutes to go, bringing on Takumi Minamino for Firmino, but still the Reds were getting no closer to make any inroads into the Hornets’ advantage.

In fact, Watford could have netted a fourth when Etienne Capoue slipped a pass through a square Liverpool backline to set Sarr free again, but he placed his finish narrowly wide of the far post after trying to curl it around Alisson, although he did look suspiciously offside.

That was to be Sarr’s final involvement as he received a standing ovation when making way for Ignacio Pussetto with eight minutes of normal time remaining.

Nathaniel Chalobah replaced Doucoure for the closing stages but the Hornets comfortably saw out the final minutes before Vicarage Road erupted in celebration.

Watford: Foster; Femenia, Kabasele, Cathcart, Masina; Capoue, Hughes; Sarr (Pussetto 82), Doucoure (Chalobah 89), Deulofeu (Pereyra 36); Deeney. Subs not used: Gomes, Dawson, Welbeck, Gray.

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Oxlade-Chamberlain (Origi 65), Fabinho, Wijnaldum (Lallana 60); Salah, Firmino (Minamino 79), Mane. Subs not used: Adrian, Matip, Jones, Hoever.

Bookings: None.

Referee: Michael Oliver.