Watford took a significant step towards Premier League survival as two Troy Deeney penalties helped them come from behind to beat Newcastle 2-1 at Vicarage Road.
Dwight Gayle gave the visitors the lead when he steered home from close range but the hosts improved after the restart as Kiko Femenia was brought down inside the box by Matt Ritchie, allowing Deeney to level.
The Watford captain completed the turnaround with a carbon copy from the spot after Javier Manquillo upended Ismaila Sarr, as Nigel Pearson’s side moved six points clear of the relegation zone.
They remain 17th while Newcastle stays in 13th place in the Premier League table after a second straight defeat.
There was a huge sigh of relief from Nigel Pearson at the final whistle as his side collected a huge three points in their last outing on Tuesday, clinging on to defeat Norwich by the odd goal, but this has been a season that for so long has been shrouded in uncertainty.
Faced with a Newcastle side safely nestled in mid-table, this was a glimmer of light for the Hornets but they were deservedly behind at the break. The visitors had already threatened when after 11 minutes, Jonjo Shelvey’s corner was inadvertently flicked on by Deeney, forcing Ben Foster to make a smart save at the far post from Miguel Almiron.
Watford were looking to win back-to-back league games for the first time since January, and they very nearly broke the deadlock against the run of play when, from Femenia’s cross, Danny Welbeck struck the post, with a combination of Martin Dubravka’s glove and Jamaal Lascelles’ clearance preventing the ball from crossing the line.
But Newcastle broke the deadlock midway through the first half as Watford had not learned their lesson from the earlier set-piece. Ritchie’s corner was flicked on by Federico Fernandez, allowing Gayle to prod home his third goal in his last five Premier League appearances.
Things might have been worse for the Hornets were it not for the intervention of Foster, who saved with his feet to deny the returning Allan Saint-Maximin after a lovely flick into his path from Gayle.
But Watford emerged reinvigorated upon the restart and they were awarded a penalty within six minutes of the second period – the first conceded by Newcastle this term. Femenia did well to evade Fernandez’s challenge before he was caught by Ritchie.
Dubravka last saved a spot-kick on this ground two seasons ago, but he was unable to keep out Deeney’s fierce drive for his first goal since February.
Watford’s talisman should have doubled his tally after a mistake by Fernandez presented the ball to him, but his shot was saved by Dubravka. This was the hosts’ best period of the game as moments later, Welbeck’s shot towards goal deflected off Danny Rose, wrong-footing Dubravka, but the ball looped just over.
The Hornets were transformed, but it took a clumsy challenge from Manquillo to gift them the chance to complete the turnaround as the Spaniard wrapped his arms around Sarr to give referee Craig Pawson no option but to point to the spot again with eight minutes remaining.
Deeney became the first player to score more than one Premier League penalty in the same match since Paul Pogba did so against West Ham last season, once more rifling his attempt down the middle as Watford earned some much-needed breathing space.