Watford secured their Championship status in style with a convincing 3-0 win over Reading.

The Hornets went into the game knowing three points over the Royals would cement their place in English football's second flight regardless of results elsewhere and they left nothing to chance.

Danny Graham headed Watford in front half hour into the contest and and second-half goals from Heidar Helguson and Graham made sure of the win.

Malky Mackay made three changes to the side that lost 1-0 at Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday, with Lloyd Doyley, Don Cowie and Heidar Helguson all returning in place of Dale Bennett and Stephen McGinn, who were on the bench, but Ross Jenkins missed out.

The Hornets looked to be positive from the outset and although it took until the eighth minute for the first chance to arrive, it was a decent one. Henri Lansbury played in a free-kick from left of centre and John Eustace headed down and back across goal, but narrowly wide of the far post.

Within a minute though, the Hornets captain was in referee Kevin Friend’s notebook for cynically chopping down former team-mate Jobi McAnuff.

The home side remained on the front foot and they almost took the lead from their first corner in the 15th minute. Cowie played in the ball from the right and Martin Taylor connected well with a half-volley from the edge of the area, only to see it cleared off the line by Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Another opportunity came and went in the 24th minute when the Hornets were awarded a free-kick in a central position, about 25 yards out, and Lansbury curled the set piece narrowly wide of Adam Federici’s left-hand post.

However, Reading could have been awarded a penalty soon after when Taylor missed a chance to head clear and, with Shane Long goal side of him, he put his arm round the striker and appeared to pull him down. But there were no concerted appeals and no reaction from the referee.

Friend incensed the Watford bench in the 28th minute though, when he booked Graham for blocking a Federici clearance. But that was to be quickly forgotten.

On the half-hour mark, Lee Hodson launched a long throw towards the near post, Helguson won the flick on and Graham rose highest to head the ball inside the far corner and past the static Federici to give Watford a precious 1-0 lead.

The visitors finally created their first opportunity three minutes later when McAnuff played in a delightful inswinging cross from the left and Jimmy Kebe got goal side of his man, only to fail to make contact with the ball.

Back came the Hornets with Graham slipping in Helguson to his left on the edge of the area and the Icelandic international let fly with a left-footed piledriver that went narrowly wide of the near post.

However, the visitors were not too far away from getting back on terms against the run of play three minutes before the interval when Sigurdsson clipped in a free-kick and Long met it with a header that went wide of Scott Loach’s left-hand upright.

The Royals continued to be the stronger side as the opening half came to a close, but it was their opponents who took a vital one-goal lead into the break.

Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley travelled South especially for the match to collect his Player of the Season Award during half time and the fans didn't have long to wait before they were celebrating again.

Two minutes after the restart Helguson made it 2-0 when Reading failed to clear a Cowie cross and the striker swivelled and smashed a left-footed shot into the bottom corner.

Brian Howard fired comfortably over for Reading following a poor dive by Long but the win was secured ten minutes into the second half.

Atrocious defending from Andy Griffin allowed Graham to win the ball back inside the Royals' box and he finished well to grab his 12th of the season.

The lead could have been more before the end as Graham twice missed the chance to grab his first Hornets' hat-trick, firing over on both occasions.

The striker's flick-on from a long throw also presented Taylor with a chance to score a fourth but his shot from close range was blocked.

Howard shot over again and Church was unable to get his effort on target after a pass by former Watford striker Grzegorz Rasiak.

Mariappa saw a header go over late on but it didn't matter, as the Hornets have survived relegation and will play Championship football again next season.

Watford: Loach; Hodson (Bennett 72), Mariappa, Taylor, Doyley; Cowie, Lansbury, Eustace, Harley; Helguson (Sordell 73), Graham.

Subs not used: Lee, McGinn, Bryan, Mingoia, Hoskins.

Reading: Federici; Griffin, Mills, Khizanishvili, Bertrand; Kebe (Robson-Kanu 69), Tabb (Rasiak 52), Howard, McAnuff; Sigurdsson, Long (Church 61).

Subs not used: Hamer, Pearce, Gunnarsson, Karacan.

Referee: Kevin Friend.

Attendance: 15,949 (2,082).

Bookings: Watford: Taylor, Eustace, Graham. Reading: Griffin.