An own goal by Troy Deeney proved to be enough for Palace to claim a third consecutive win and clean sheet as Sam Allardyce’s side’s brilliant form continued at the expense of Watford.
Having scored four in his previous three games against the Eagles, the visiting captain managed to get on the scoresheet again this time round, but it would benefit the Eagles as he inadvertently nodded in a Yohan Cabaye free-kick on 69 minutes in an ugly encounter which brought about another beautiful three points for the Eagles.
An added bonus was a third successive shut-out for the first time since April 2014 by a home defence that was barely troubled, helping to moved Allardyce’s team further away from the drop zone.
The first half was a tepid affair with both teams cancelling each other out and nullifying the majority of attacks. Because of that, chances were few and far between and in the opening 20 minutes only a Mamadou Sakho header which flashed over the bar and a 30-yard drive from M’baye Niang straight at Wayne Hennessey provided the only early excitement for those in attendance.
Things didn’t get too much better during the rest of the half but late on in the first 45 minutes Wilfried Zaha shanked an effort into the Whitehorse Lane end from the edge of the area, and Valon Behrami was further off target with a volley from inside the D just before Martin Atkinson called time on proceedings and the teams regrouped in the changing rooms.
The 15 minutes’ breather seemed to do both teams the world of good and soon after the restart Etienne Capoue blasted from 25 yards out and saw his stinger fly narrowly over, but just after the hour the first real spark in the game saw Andros Townsend force his way down the right and whip in a fine ball for Zaha at the back post, but after some trickery he couldn’t quite find the top corner and sent his effort over Heurelho Gomes’ bar.
However the opening finally arrived, and it kept in fashion with the rest of the preceding 69 minutes of a turgid encounter. After Palace won a free-kick on the left, Yohan Cabaye swung a delivery into the box and it tempted Deeney to head it to safety for a corner, however it clipped off the base of the post and found its way into the net to hand the Eagles the lead in the scrappiest circumstances.
With a precious lead to protect, Hennessey was called into his first testing stop of the afternoon when Abdoulaye Doucoure let fly from 30 yards and the ball bounced in front of the Welshman, however he did well to turn it past his post and keep his clean sheet intact, but Palace could have sealed it with five minutes to go when Townsend again scampered down the flank and picked out Zaha in the box once more. The winger’s volley was bravely blocked by Craig Cathcart, and the rebound spun towards Cabaye who scuffed a volley fractions wide.
With the margins so tight Palace just had to cling on to their points, and in injury-time they just about managed to do so when a long ball by Cathcart found Deeney who beat Hennessey to the ball, but Niang lobbed the ball over the bar with the final action of the game as the Eagles boosted their survival chances no end.
Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Tomkins (Dann 82), Sakho, Schlupp, Milivojevic, Cabaye (Sako 86), Zaha, Puncheon, Townsend (Delaney 86), C. Benteke. Subs not used: Speroni, Kelly, Lee, Campbell.
Watford: Gomes, Cathcart, Kaboul, Prodl, Britos, Janmaat (Amrabat 63), Cleverley (Success 79), Behrami (Doucoure 46), Capoue, Niang, Deeney. Subs not used: Pantilimon, Zuniga, Holebas, Success, Okaka.