A much improved Watford gave their promotion hopes a shot in the arm with a 1-0 win away at league leaders Norwich City.

Dan Gosling finally broke the deadlock in the second half after a frantic opening 45 minutes had ended goalless, before the Hornets maintained their high level of intensity to hold on and see the game out.

Further good news came in the shape of promotion challengers Brentford being held at home by Cardiff City to increase the gap between the two sides to ten points, putting Watford in a strong position going into their final three games of the season.

Head coach Xisco Munoz needed a response to Saturday’s defeat at Luton Town and made four changes in a bid to keep his side’s promotion hopes on track.

The suspended Kiko Femenia was replaced by Craig Cathcart playing out of position at right-back, while Adam Masina recovered from a hip problem to replace Achraf Lazaar.

Elsewhere, Tom Cleverley returned to the starting XI for the first time since the start of last month in place of Philip Zinckernagel who was hooked at half time in the derby defeat, while Carlos Sanchez also dropped to the bench to make way for Gosling.

Watford arrived at Carrow Road with a decent enough record against the Canaries, having won on five of their previous eight visits. They also beat their hosts at Vicarage Road earlier in the season in what was Munoz’s first game in charge.

They started positively in this game too, clearly intent on attacking down the right-hand side, with Ismaila Sarr combining well with makeshift right back Cathcart.

The first chance the two created was a cross from the Senegal winger that resulted in a corner from which a Will Hughes delivery was just inches above the head of Francisco Sierralta at the near post.

Next it was Cathcart’s turn to whip a ball in from the flank and this time it was a more accurate cross, picking out Gosling in the centre but he headed over when he ought to have done better.

Gosling had another good chance to score moments later when Sarr’s searching ball, again from the right, found the midfielder in plenty of space, but he haphazardly swung his leg at the ball and completely missed.

That was after Sarr himself almost found an opening when Ken Sema’s throw in from the left was nodded on by Joao Pedro, into the path of Cleverley who knocked the ball into the winger’s path, only for the eventual effort to skim the outside of Tim Krul’s near post.

Gosling continued to look like Watford’s most likely source of joy in the opening stages and he tried his luck again, this time from distance, in the 12th minute, but the shot was overhit and flew over the bar.

After a breathless opening quarter-of-an-hour, Norwich were eventually able to push out of their own half and started to cause some problems of their own.

Todd Cantwell and Kieran Dowell both had shots deflected narrowly over the bar either side of a Grant Hanley header that Gosling had to hack away from under the crossbar.

By the midway point in the first half, the game was starting to look every bit the kind of clash a neutral would hope to see from the top two sides in the league, with the action ebbing and flowing from end-to-end.

But it was the visitors who started to once again get the better of proceedings, with Sarr continuing to make a nuisance of himself out on the right.

First the winger forced a save out of Krul at his near post when he cut away from Xavi Quintilla and shot with his left foot after latching onto Pedro’s through ball.

He then nicked the ball away from the same Norwich defender he had gotten the better of a few seconds previously, and rolled an inviting pass into the feet of Gosling, only for the midfielder to once again aim his shot too high.

Despite the relentless nature of the opening 45 minutes, the best two chances of the half were yet to come by this point.

When they did arrive, they fell to the Hornets, much in keeping with the rhythm of the contest.

Unsurprisingly Sarr was involved again, as he participated in some neat build up play that saw the ball worked from right to left, eventually to the feet of Sema on the edge of the area. He crafted some space for a shot but Krul was alert and parried away with a strong left hand. Sarr reacted quickest to the loose ball, but the goalkeeper again was able to get enough behind the strike to keep it out of the net.

The persistent half finished with yet another Watford opportunity, with Sierralta leaping acrobatically to try and flick a Cleverley corner from the left into the net, but he could only divert the ball off target and the sides went down the tunnel even, somehow, without either of them breaking the deadlock.

The Hornets picked up more or less where they left off in the second half, fashioning a chance for Sarr just seven minutes after the restart.

William Troost-Ekong's ball from deep found Masina out on the left. His cross was headed on by Pedro, Sema hooked back into the box where the club’s record signing stretched to try and score but couldn't keep his effort down.

Cantwell then tried to get the Canaries on top with a shot on the end of a mazy run, but a deflection carried the ball kindly into Daniel Bachmann’s gloves.

The deadlock was eventually broken just before the hour mark and it was exactly what Watford deserved for their efforts.

Cleverley did well to win the ball back on the edge of the Canaries’ penalty area before flicking the ball into the path of Pedro, whose cross from the left was perfectly weighted for Gosling to turn past Krul.

Norwich were keen to respond as quickly as they could and a charge down the right from Max Aarons ended with a cross to Cantwell in the centre, but he failed to keep his volley down and the score remained in the Hornets' favour. 

They visitors should have doubled their advantage with 15 minutes of regulation time remaining when substitutes Nathaniel Chalobah and Andre Gray combined well through the centre.

The former's beautifully weighted pass picked out the latter, but he was denied by a risky last-ditch challenge from Hanley that forced a corner.

From the set piece, Masina rose highest to meet the ball, but could only nod wide.

Chalobah was unfortunate not to find the net himself as the game entered its final ten minutes when he shrugged off a challenge from Emi Buendia in the box, only for Krul to deny his shot on a tight angle. 

The end to end action turned into a desperate scrap as the game wound its way through seven minutes of added on time, with Troy Deeney bellowing loud encouragement from the touchline, but Watford held on to see the game out and picked up three more points that lifted them within touching distance of a return to the Premier League.