Pascal Gross’ first goal in seven games was enough for Brighton and Hove Albion to edge past Watford 1-0 and make a welcome return to winning ways.
Chris Hughton’s side last tasted victory against Swansea on November 4 and have endured a difficult spell since then.
Gross’ fourth goal of the campaign – and his first since the 2-2 draw with Stoke City last month – put an end to that run, however, in what was a game that the Seagulls dominated for long periods.
The German had come closest to breaking the deadlock earlier with a fizzing effort, but he eventually got his name on the scoresheet with a low drive from the edge of the penalty area, which was helped on its way by an insipid attempted save by Heurelho Gomes.
Watford – missing the spark of suspended duo Abdoulaye Doucoure and Troy Deeney – struggled badly and scarcely threatened a Brighton backline, which included Premier League debutant Connor Goldson.
They will need to pick themselves up for the visit of Leicester City on Tuesday as they attempt to halt a run of four straight Premier League defeats. Brighton, meanwhile, will travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea on the same day with a spring in their step.
Brighton started in positive fashion and carved open the Hornets’ defence inside the opening five minutes.
Tomer Hemed dragged his initial effort wide before Anthony Knockaert latched onto the loose ball and drilled a low cross back across the face of the goal, which was well parried away by Gomes.
Watford weathered the early storm and Hughton’s side had to wait until just after the half-hour mark for their first effort on target, Goldson meeting Gross’ deep corner at the back post with a downwards header that was well tipped behind by Gomes.
Knockaert then saw a shot from distance well held by Watford’s Brazilian goalkeeper as the Seagulls continued to dominate in the closing stages of the half.
The hosts picked up where they left off after the break, but their lack of firepower continued to be painfully evident.
Hemed surged forward with the ball before an exchange of passes ends with him unceremoniously lashing over when well placed on the edge of the area.
Inexplicably, Watford’s first attempt on goal did not come until the 56th minute when Richarlison’s effort from a tight angle was pawed away by Mat Ryan.
This appeared to spark the game into life, Gross first firing a long-range effort agonisingly wide before breaking the deadlock in the 64th minute with a low drive past Gomes, who will be disappointed that he was unable to repel it.
Lewis Dunk then headed narrowly wide from a corner as Brighton looked to kill the game off.
Richarlison flashed a late header wide for Watford, while the effervescent Knockaert should have scored a second for Brighton – instead hooking wide with the goal at his mercy.
Marco Silva’s side then almost secured the most undeserved of points with one of the last touches of the game as Mat Ryan dropped a looping cross, but Stefano Okaka failed to make him pay as he sent an effort wide off his thigh.