Watford’s dismal season of Premier League football ended with a 27th defeat, as Chelsea snatched a 2-1 victory in stoppage time, having been pegged back themselves just moments before.

Kai Havertz’s early strike gave the Blues a one goal lead to take into the break, but Dan Gosling’s header three minutes from time looked to have given the Hornets a rare positive on which to end the campaign.

However, Ross Barkley’s header in added on time handed the hosts the victory.

There were six changes to the starting XI that conceded five against Leicester City last week, with Ben Foster missing his final match for the club with an elbow injury, while Samuel Kalu had an illness. Elsewhere, Jeremy Ngakia, Craig Cathcart, Adam Masina and Gosling all dropped to the bench.

Daniel Bachmann, Kiko Femenia, Samir, Hassane Kamara, Tom Cleverley and Joshua King replaced the absentees.

Thomas Tuchel meanwhile made five changes to the side that drew with Leicester in midweek, with Trevor Chalobah, Marcos Alonson, Jorginho, Christian Pulisic and Romelu Lukaku replaced by Cesar Azpilicueta, Kenedy, Saul Niguez, Kai Havertz and Mason Mount.

Few expected the Hornets to come away from the Bridge with anything other than a defeat, but they gave a decent account of themselves at a stadium in which they haven’t won since 1986 and almost nicked a point at the death from an otherwise uneventful match. Only for Chelsea to spoil the away fans’ party.

Watford were behind just ten minutes into what turned out to be a fairly placid affair overall, save for the final few minutes, with both sides having nothing of value to play for.

Moments after he had been denied by Bachmann on a one-on-one, Havertz turned in Kenedy’s cross from the left at the back post, after Hakim Ziyech’s incisive pass had picked out the Brazilian.

Saul almost doubled the lead on the quarter of an hour mark when he curled just wide of the post, while Mount headed wide on the end of a cross from the right a few moments after.

Edo Kayembe had the visitors’ first meaningful shot on goal with 25 minutes on the clock, drilling wide of the mark with a low effort from the edge of the box after Joao Pedro had shoved his way past several Chelsea defenders.

Then Femenia forced a save out of Edouard Mendy on the end of Kamara’s drilled cross from the left, with the resulting corner going to waste.

Bachmann was then called upon twice more, first denying Mount’s drive from the right of the penalty area with his foot before Havertz failed to shrug off Christian Kabasele and let off a tame effort.

There was little the keeper could do to keep out the German with the last kick of the first half, but luckily for Bachmann, the frame of the goal did his job for him.

The second half started with Watford taking the initiative and Pedro forced an important save out of Mendy after a neat one-two with Cleverley on the edge of the area.

Genuine attacking threat dried up temporarily, with crosses from Ziyech and Pedro at either end of the field claimed comfortably by each keeper.

Thiago Silva was needed to charge back to his own goal-line to prevent a wayward Azpilicueta backpass ending up in Mendy’s net.

Chelsea stepped up their efforts with 20 minutes remaining, with substitute Barkley drawing Bachmann into a flailing stop with a powerful effort from distance.

Then, from the resulting corner, Mount curled fractionally over the bar from just inside the 18-yard-box.

Cucho Hernandez was brought off the bench for the final 18 minutes of normal time, having been out of action since April. He replaced King.

A second substitute was called for in the 78th minute when player of the season Kamara had to be replaced by Masina after picking up an injury. Kaymbe was replaced by Gosling soon after, but not before Barkley trickled another shot at Bachmann from the edge of the box.

Another chance came and went for the hosts, with Havertz mis-hitting an effort after being slipped in behind the Watford defence, but the real drama had been saved for the final few minutes of the game.

First the Hornets levelled when Masina’s whipped cross from deep was headed beyond Mendy at the back post by the unmarked and unerring Gosling.

But another header at the opposite end of the pitch from Barkley was too powerful for Bachmann, who got a hand to the effort but couldn’t keep it out.

Watford therefore finish in 19th position, having played 38, won six, drawn five and lost 27. The rebuild for the Championship has already begun. Whether or not this relegation is a temporary exile from the top flight, or a more prolonged absence remains to be seen.

TEAM: Bachmann; Femenia, Kabasele, Samir, Kamara (Masina); Kayembe (Gosling), Sissoko, Cleverley; Joao Pedro, Sema, King (Hernandez)

Unused substitutes: Elliot, Ngakia, Troost-Ekong, Masina, Cathcart, Sierralta, Baah