Watford made it six successive wins for the first time in a decade this afternoon as they progressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup with an ultimately comfortable 4-1 victory over Hartlepool United.

Not since August and September 2000 had any Hornets side won half-a-dozen games in a row, and it looked like that record might be in doubt when Antony Sweeney gave the League One side the lead in first-half injury-time.

However, the pendulum swung dramatically in the space of two minutes mid-way through the second half.

First, Piero Mingoia celebrated his first Hornets start with a fine equaliser before Marvin Sordell took his season’s tally into double figures with a second moments later.

Sordell was to go on and double his tally with a delightful third, but the best was arguably saved for last when Danny Graham came off the bench to continue his stunning scoring streak with a magnificent fourth.

Malky Mackay made five changes to the side that made it five straight league wins at Scunthorpe United on Monday.

Rene Gilmartin replaced Scott Loach in goal, while Dale Bennett came in for Andrew Taylor, who has returned to Middlesbrough, as the Hornets’ starting back four was changed for the first time in the 17 matches.

Further up the pitch, there was a debut for Mingoia in place of the injured Don Cowie, Monday’s match-winner, Matt Whichelow, came in for another player whose loan has expired, Jordon Mutch, while Troy Deeney replaced Graham.

Watford’s top scorer was on a bench that also featured Stephen McGinn, fit again after suffering a fractured cheekbone at Queens Park Rangers, while there was a first taste of the match-day 18 for highly-rated young professional Sean Murray.

The Hornets started brightly, winning two corners in the opening three minutes, and their first opening arose when good work from Whichelow, playing behind loan striker Sordell, saw the ball worked to the right where Mingoia crossed deep but Martin Taylor couldn’t direct a header on target at the back post.

The next chance came four minutes later when Sordell led a quick counter-attack before laying a reverse pass to his left where the supporting Whichelow scuffed a left-footed effort across goal and beyond the far post.

Pools gradually started to come into the contest on a pitch that was already beginning to cut up following the heavy rain, but no further opportunities were forthcoming until the 22nd minute when Sweeney hooked the visitors’ first attempt harmlessly wide.

Ritchie Humphreys was also off target from 20 yards following an ambitious attempt with the outside of his left foot, but it was the hosts who were continuing to dominate possession, without creating that much.

However, that almost changed in the 33rd minute when right-back Adrian Mariappa crossed from that side of the pitch and Deeney met it with a first-time volley that went wide of Jake Kean’s left-hand post.

Referee Russell Booth showed the yellow card for the first time two minutes later to Paul Murray after he halted Mingoia’s attempt to break downfield with a clear trip, but Hartlepool created a decent opening four minutes after that when the ball was worked into Andy Monkhouse, who fired narrowly wide of Gilmartin’s right-hand post from a central position in the area.

Leon McSweeney did have the ball in the back of the Watford net as the first half entered stoppage time, but the flag was already up for offside. But the warning was not heeded.

Barely 20 seconds later the ball was played down the left side of the Hornets area and there appeared to be a mix up between Mariappa and Bennett which allowed Sweeney to latch on to the pass and he calmly slipped it beneath Gilmartin to give the visitors a surprise 1-0 lead at the interval.

The Hornets made a positive start to the second period as they sought to get back on terms and switched to more of a 4-4-2 formation, but there was still little in the way of goalmouth action. Indeed, it was the visitors who had the first attempt of the half when McSweeney headed wide in the 53rd minute.

The same player fired over the top two minutes later following a neat build up, but soon after Sordell did well to jink past at least two challenges to open up a shooting opportunity. However, he perhaps should have glanced to his left where Will Buckley was completely unmarked, rather than chance his arm and shoot over.

It was the visitors who made the first change after 62 minutes, bringing on James Brown for Humphreys, before both keepers came to the fore.

First, Gilmartin did well to hold a low drive from substitute Brown after great work by Monkhouse down the left, only for play to quickly switch down the other end where Kean parried the Hornets’ first on-target attempt of the match from Buckley down and over his own bar. But that turned out to be the spark Mackay’s men needed.

Ross Jenkins saw a stinging drive deflected narrowly wide of the far post from 25 yards before a moment that one young player will not forget in a hurry.

From the resultant corner, Mingoia was not really closed down as he picked up the ball on the right side of the area and, after weighing up his options, he curled the ball inside Kean’s far post to make it 1-1 and celebrate his first start with a goal.

Having struggled to create anything of note, Watford were in front barely a minute later when the ball was worked to Sordell left of centre and he ran at the defence, taking on one man before shifting the ball on to his right foot and bending it into the bottom corner to take his tally into double figures for the campaign.

In between times, Whichelow also had a shot saved, making it five on-target attempts in almost as many minutes for a side that hadn’t managed one in the first 63.

After Colin Larkin had replaced McSweeney, Mackay made a double change on 77 minutes, with Graham and McGinn replacing Deeney and Buckley.

Fabian Yantorno then came on for Paul Murray before Watford made their place in the fourth round safe with a delightful third in the 82nd minute.

Bennett lifted the ball forward to the left side of the area where Sordell produced a magnificent first touch to take the ball down before dinking it past the advancing Kean to take his season’s tally to 11.

The scorer then made way for Gavin Massey as the Hornets completed their changes and the replacement almost set up a fourth with three minutes remaining, getting to the by-line before crossing towards the near post, but the pass was just too strong for Graham.

However, the striker was not to miss out on scoring for a superb sixth successive match.

A great pass from McGinn was picked up by Graham who bided his time as he advanced from right to left across the face of the area before getting the ball on to his left foot and slamming a shot past Kean off the underside of the bar to make it 4-1 and take his purple patch to eight in six outings.

There was still time for the hosts to almost add a fifth when Doyley broke into the area from the left before striking a stinging right-foot shot that Kean did well to parry, but it was another job very well done by the Hornets in the end.

Watford: Gilmartin; Mariappa, Bennett, Taylor, Doyley; Jenkins, Mingoia; Deeney (Graham 77), Whichelow, Buckley (McGinn 77); Sordell (Massey 82). Not used: Loach, Oshodi, S Murray and Thompson.

Hartlepool United: Kean; Austin, Liddle, Hartley, Horwood; P Murray (Yantorno 80); McSweeney (Larkin 74), Gamble, Sweeney, Monkhouse; Humphreys (Brown 62). Not used: Boyd, Haslam, Rafferty and Bjornsson.

Bookings: P Murray for a foul on Mingoia after 35 mins.

Attendance: 8,950.

Referee: Russell Booth.