Cunningham and Anderson fire rejuvenated Bristol City to 2-0 win over Watford
Manuel Almunia joined a growing band of goalkeepers with good reason to rue this fixture as he handed Bristol City victory on a plate at Ashton Gate.
Last season saw Scott Loach gifted the Robins a bizarre equaliser at Vicarage Road, while a David James gaffe handed Watford victory in the corresponding fixture in BS3.
On this occasion, it was Almunia whose error proved crucial, the Spaniard inexplicably allowing Greg Cunningham's 43rd minute cross to bounce past him and into the net to settle an intriguing encounter.
That incident energised the home side, who doubled their advantage 20 minutes into the second half when Paul Anderson scored from close range after Louis Carey had nodded down a Stephen Pearson corner.
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Cunningham's first ever goal in senior club football may have been a bizarre affair, but it could yet prove crucial in City's on-going fight for Championship survival.
If the Robins looked to be down and out just a couple of weeks ago, back-to-back wins against Ipswich and Watford have since given supporters renewed hope and there is a growing feeling that City could yet perform a great escape under new head coach Sean O'Driscoll.
Cunningham's winning goal provided the main talking point, but City's first clean sheet in 31 attempts this season was perhaps more worthy of note.
It was not so much the victory itself, but the manner in which it was achieved that was telling. Where before there was chaos and confusion, O'Driscoll has instilled balance, organisation and discipline to create a team that is hard to beat.
Watford arrived as the form team in the English second tier, having demolished Nottingham Forest and Huddersfield in their last two outings. But O'Driscoll came up with a game-plan that frustrated the visitors and City's defence held firm, even after the introduction of free-scoring forwards Matej Vydra and Troy Deeney on the hour mark.
Hornets boss Gianfranco Zola took everyone by surprise when making six changes to the side that thrashed Forest 3-0 on Saturday. Like a well-oiled machine, the visitors absorbed the changes with ease and still dominated the opening exchanges, keeping the ball for long periods and looking to catch their opponents on the counter-attack.
An increasingly cagey contest gave rise to a fascinating clash of styles, City dropping deep when out of possession and relying upon sound organisation and total concentration to negate Watford's slick, Continental approach, but demonstrating real cut and thrust whenever an opportunity to attack presented itself.
City owed their first clear sight of goal to a typically English assault, centre-back Liam Fontaine meeting a Steven Davies corner with a bullet header which required Almunia to make a crucial save at full-stretch.
Stung into a response, Watford demonstrated their ability to turn defence into attack in an instant, Fernando Forestieri showing City defenders a clean pair of heels and finding strike partner Alex Geijo, whose header from six yards out should have been on target at the very least.
Almen Abdi was similarly wasteful when leaning back to meet Jonathan Hogg's low centre with a shot that flew over the cross bar and into the East End.
City's more direct approach nearly paid dividends shortly before half time, Paul Anderson applying a deft header to Liam Kelly's lofted pass and looking on as the ball skidded agonisingly wide.
Their next attack yielded the Robins the lead in bizarre circumstances. There appeared no danger when Cunningham floated a cross into the penalty area from the left channel, but Watford's triumvirate of central defenders allowed the ball to bounce the greasy surface caused it to rear up and utterly confound Almunia, who was still clutching at thin air as the net bulged.
Zola threw Deeney and Vydra into the fray in search of an equaliser, only for Watford to fall further behind five minutes later. Carey got his head to Pearson's corner and there was Anderson to stab the ball over the line from close range.
That City held out thereafter without any major scares against opponents who have been scoring goals for fun in recent weeks said much about their collective desire to avoid relegation and give their long-suffering fans something to be proud of.
City (4-4-2): Heaton; Moloney, Carey, Fontaine, Cunningham (Nyatanga 90); Kelly, Skuse (Elliott 27), Pearson, Anderson; Davies (Stead 73), Baldock.
Watford (3-5-2): Almunia; Nosworthy, Hall, Ekstrand; Murray (Deeney 60), Abdi, Eustace (Chalobah 75), Hogg, Pudil; Forestieri, Geijo (Vydra 60).
Referee: Carl Berry (Surrey)