Watford were set to start their Championship campaign with a 2-1 defeat with two minutes of normal time remaining against Crystal Palace, but late goals from Udinese loanees Almen Abdi and Matej Vydra secured all three points for the visitors.

A lively first half saw Palace’s Owen Garvan score either side of Martin Taylor’s goal from close range.

The second half was a quieter affair until the dying minutes when Julian Speroni once again helped the Hornets by letting Abdi’s strike squirm past him and then Vydra curled the winner deep into injury time.

Both sides were without several players for their season opener. Palace went into the contest without Patrick McCarthy, Glenn Murray, Jermaine Easter and Jonathan Williams. And only two of Watford’s new signings started – Manuel Almunia and Abdi – with Vydra on the bench.

We believe Vydra was left out because he had only played 45 minutes prior to last week’s game, when he played the full 120 minutes, and might have been struggling fitness wise.

Daniel Pudil, Fitz Hall, Steve Leo Beleck and Alex Geijo were all major doubts, or had been ruled out, going into the contest.

Watford struggled to score against Wycombe Wanderers last week, and Tottenham Hotspur the week before, but the Hornets’ attacking threat was boosted by the return of Sean Murray.

And the youngster made an immediate impact as he cut on to his right foot and picked out Joe Garner with a cross after just four minutes, but the striker’s header went wide of the near post.

Watford played some decent football at times and spent plenty of time in Palace’s half and Garner’s header was immediately followed by a 20-yard half volley from Abdi, which was easily held by Julian Speroni.

Two of the Championship’s brightest stars were on show in Murray and Wilfried Zaha and it was the tricky winger who had Palace’s first effort at goal, dragging his long-range effort wide of the near post.

And the highly-rated Zaha also created the opening goal when he turned two Watford defenders on the edge of the area and then showed great pace to burst into the area and he was brought down by Eustace for a penalty.

Garvan dispatched the spot kick into the top corner despite Almunia going the right way.

Watford seemed to respond well though and hit the cross bar when Joe Garner climbed highest to head Mark Yeates’ cross.

And moments later the game was level as Murray’s shot from the corner of the area was spilled by Speroni and Taylor stabbed the ball home from six yards out.

He might have been one of the smaller players on the pitch but Garner again jumped highest to head wide but it didn’t take long for Palace to regain the lead.

Abdi lost concentration for a second and despite his efforts at a recovery, Garvan strolled into the Watford area and slotted home from 12 yards.

Watford were not looking comfortable defensively and it could have been worse had Murray not headed Dikgacoi’s header off the line from a corner.

The visitors continued to push forward but apart from a couple of tame long-distance efforts from Yeates, Carl Dickinson and John Eustace, they failed to create anything of note before the break.

The second half was not as action-packed as the first and the first real chance did not arrive until around the hour mark. The Hornets should have levelled when Dickinson’s free kick was deflected into the path of Eustace but the captain fired over from just eight yards out.

Zola acted quickly in search of an equaliser as he took off Eustace and brought on Vydra with more than half hour remaining.

And the young forward almost made an immediate impact as his skill on the right released Doyley and his cross fell to Murray on the edge of the area but the midfielder’s first-time effort went comfortably over.

It wasn’t one of Murray’s best days despite his best efforts but the youngster did force Speroni into a save with a 25-yard free kick – the first time he was put on set piece duty.

Watford were not playing badly and were enjoying more territory than the hosts. Dickinson was next to go close as his long-range shot went over following Vydra’s blocked effort.

Palace had to wait until the final quarter of an hour for their first decent chance when Mile Zedinak headed on to the rook of the net from a corner.

It looked as though Watford were set to start their Championship campaign with a defeat until, with two minutes of normal time remaining, Abdi tried his luck from distance and the ball squirmed past Speroni who could only help the ball on his way. It will have to go down as another Speroni error.

Watford were searching for the winner and Iwelumo forced Speroni into a save with a header in injury time.

And then in the final minute of injury time, Vydra cut into the left-side of the area and curled a 12-yard shot into the far corner to win it for Watford in dramatic fashion.

Palace: Speroni; Ward, Ramage, Martin, Moxey; Dilgacoi, Jedinak, Garvan; Zaha, Wilbraham, Parr (Wright 72).

Subs: Price, O’Keefe, Appiah, De Silva, Parsons, Sekajja.

Watford: Almunia; Doyley, Nosworthy, Taylor, Dickinson; Eustace (Vydra 59), Hogg, Abdi; Yeates, Garner, Murray.

Subs: Bond, Thompson, Hodson, Forsyth.

Referee: Andy D’Urso.

Attendance: 17,109 (1,690).