Full-time: Watford 2, Bristol City 2
STEVEN Davies scored his first Bristol City goal to rescue a point for the Robins at Vicarage Road.
A 77th minute replacement for Marvin Elliott, the former Derby County striker struck eight minutes from time as City came from behind to make it four points from two away games in the space of four days.
But a Watford side determined to halt a run of four successive defeats caused the Robins plenty of problems and were left to rue a series of missed chances.
The Hornets went ahead 13 minutes into the second half when James Wilson turned the ball into his own net, but Elliott equalised five minutes later with a towering header.
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Matej Vydra restored Watford's lead nine minutes later, only for Davies to salvage a precious point after fine approach play from Richard Foster, Sam Baldock and Ryan Taylor.
Forged in the image of their Italian manager, Gianfranco Zola, Watford looked to move the ball at speed on the deck, relying on accurate passing and clever movement to try and unlock a City defence that included teenage Academy graduate Joe Bryan.
New-look Watford remain a work in progress and a side containing seven loan signings is still searching for cohesion. But the Hornets boast players of outstanding individual talent and Swiss midfielder Almen Abdi was only inches away from a spectacular opening goal when his curling free kick flew just wide of Tom Heaton's right-hand post.
Afforded an opportunity from a similar position moments later, Argentine forward Fernando Forestieri sent another free kick straight into Heaton's arms. City's keeper then had to be alert to gather Daniel Pudil's speculative shot from range.
A youthful Watford midfield was brimful of pace and Chelsea loan starlet Nathaniel Chalobah caused consternation in City ranks when ghosting past Stephen Pearson and cutting inside Foster and Wilson. Fortunately for the visitors, his shot lacked the power to trouble Heaton.
Operating from a compact and disciplined base, City sought to open up the home defence on the counter-attack and fleet-footed striker Baldock was twice thwarted by last-ditch challenges from centre-back Nyron Nosworthy, while Elliott met an Albert Adomah free kick with a header that looped harmlessly over the cross bar.
Watford posed the greater threat going forward in the first half and Heaton was again called into action, dropping quickly to his left to gather Forestieri's shot after Vydra, one of 10 loan signings from Serie A club Udinese, had surged into the penalty area.
City carried a threat themselves and Ryan Taylor's ability to hold the ball up and play in team-mates with a perceptive pass created a clear-cut opening for Martyn Woolford 10 minutes before half time. The in-form winger steadied himself and unleashed a sweetly-struck shot from the edge of the 18 yard box, only for former Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia to make a fine diving save.
Fluent in possession despite four straight defeats, the Hornets were growing in confidence and Sean Murray saw a shot blocked by Liam Fontaine, while Brazilian centre-half Neuton had an effort ruled out for offside as the home side pressed.
Heaton was called upon to save the Robins in time added on, the former Cardiff keeper diving full-length to turn a low shot from Abdi onto the post.
It was City's turn to be denied by the woodwork early in the second half. Taylor played Adomah in and the winger surged into the penalty area before looking up and picking out Woolford, whose first-time shot from an angle came back off the upright with Almunia beaten.
Chances were materialising at both ends and Bryan, making only his second Championship start, came to City's rescue when clearing Nosworthy's shot off the line following a goalmouth melee.
When City still failed to clear their lines, Italian defender Marco Cassetti fired wide of a gaping target from eight yards out.
Hornets boss Zola introduced Troy Deeney in the 56th minute and the striker, making his first appearance after serving a six-month jail sentence for affray, was immediately involved, setting up Vydra, who inexplicably shot wide with the goal at his mercy.
Watford were building a head of steam and they took the lead in the 58th minute, Wilson turning Cassetti's low centre into his own net under extreme pressure from Deaney.
The lead lasted just five minutes. Substitute Neil Kilkenny combined with Foster to set Bryan free on the left and the teenager outstripped full-back Cassetti and delivered a brilliant centre to enable Elliott to equalise with a towering header from six yards out.
Suddenly, the home defence was at sixes and sevens and City almost profited when Baldock slid in at the far post, arriving a split-second too late to turn in Stephen Pearson's square pass. Adomah was backing up and the winger's shot hit the side netting.
City must have regretted their profligacy when the Hornets restored their advantage in the 72nd minute. The goal was a real sucker punch, Vydra running onto a long ball over the top from Czech full-back Pudil and holding off Fontaine to squeeze his shot beneath Heaton.
But City were not finished and substitute Davies netted five minutes after coming on, tapping home after Taylor's effort had been blocked by Fitz Hall.
Watford almost grabbed a winner late on, Deeney's shot coming back off the post and Heaton reacting sharply to turn Hall's header behind.
Watford (4-3-3): Almunia; Cassetti (Doyley 77), Nosworthy, Neuton (Hall 70), Pudil; Yeates, Chalobah, Abdi; Murray, Vydra, Forestieri (Deeney 56).
City (4-4-2): Heaton; Foster, J Wilson, Fontaine, Bryan; Adomah, Elliott (Davies 77), Pearson, Woolford (Kilkenny 62); Taylor, Baldock (Morris 86).
Referee: Darren Sheldrake (Surrey)