Match ends, Wigan Athletic 0, Watford 2.
Wigan Athletic 0-2 Watford
Two goals from Troy Deeney lifted Watford to the top of the Championship on goal difference as they beat strugglers Wigan.
An even contest was decided by two clinical pieces of finishing with Deeney heading home Adlene Guedioura's cross early in the second half.
Then, with 90 minutes played, Fernando Forestieri was felled in the penalty area by Emmerson Boyce.
Deeney sent Ali Al Habsi the wrong way for his 19th goal of the season.
Watford are one goal better off than second-placed Middlesbrough, who beat Derby. Bournemouth slipped to third after a draw with Cardiff.
The result at the DW Stadium marked a triumphant return for Ben Watson, Wigan's 2013 FA Cup-winning goalscorer, whose January move to Vicarage Road has ignited the Hornets' promotion push.
In contrast, his former team remain six points from safety, having played a game more than Rotherham, who are a place above them and clear of the relegation zone.
Wigan never gave up the fight but remain winless on home soil for more than six months heading into Saturday's visit of local rivals Bolton.
Deeney was a threat throughout and twice came close to scoring early on but Al Habsi was equal to both chances.
Wigan's Leon Clarke had a goal disallowed for offside and team-mate Marc-Antoine Fortune had the hosts' best chance of the first half, but his half-volley was straight at Heurelho Gomes.
Sheyi Ojo was also guilty of profligacy as he squandered Jermaine Pennant's cross.
After surviving those scares, Watford went ahead as Guedioura led a devastating counter-attack and turned provider for Deeney.
And the striker made no mistake from the spot in injury time to send the visiting fans home content.
Wigan boss Malky Mackay:
"Troy Deeney is a terrific centre-forward - that's why I bought him to Watford in the first place. He's far and away the best centre-forward in this division, he's an all-rounder.
"Quite rightly because of his hard work, he will end up in the Premier League - one way or another.
"We went toe-to-toe with Watford and for vast parts of the game we were equal with them. You would think something would drop for you, but they were putting their bodies on the line and showing why they are where they are at the moment."
Watford manager Slavisa Jokanovic:
"Troy Deeney is in a good moment of form, which is good news for us. The first goal was really out of nothing, and he attacked the ball well.
"I am also happy with how he is working without the ball, and pressing the opposition centre-backs.
"We started the game a little bit waiting to see what was going to happen, and in the first half it was 50-50. In the second half we played with more offensive play, we scored a goal and we then could have scored more."
- 26Al Habsi
- 15PennantSubstituted forMurphyat 55'minutes
- 24PerchBooked at 74mins
- 16Kim Bo-kyung
- 18OjoSubstituted forKvistat 62'minutes
- 32FortunéSubstituted forSinclairat 82'minutes
- 15CathcartSubstituted forParedesat 71'minutes
- 47MottaSubstituted forForestieriat 45'minutesBooked at 53mins
- 5GuédiouraBooked at 18mins
- 20VydraSubstituted forTozserat 73'minutes
- David Coote
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Wigan Athletic 0, Watford 2.
Attempt missed. Gaëtan Bong (Wigan Athletic) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Kim Bo-Kyung with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Wigan Athletic. Conceded by Tommy Hoban.
Offside, Wigan Athletic. Ali Al Habsi tries a through ball, but Leon Clarke is caught offside.
Foul by Troy Deeney (Watford).
Jason Pearce (Wigan Athletic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Wigan Athletic 0, Watford 2. Troy Deeney (Watford) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Penalty Watford. Fernando Forestieri draws a foul in the penalty area.
Penalty conceded by Emmerson Boyce (Wigan Athletic) after a foul in the penalty area.
Foul by Adlène Guédioura (Watford).
Emmerson Boyce (Wigan Athletic) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Offside, Wigan Athletic. Emmerson Boyce tries a through ball, but Leon Clarke is caught offside.
Foul by Fernando Forestieri (Watford).
William Kvist (Wigan Athletic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Joel Ekstrand (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jerome Sinclair (Wigan Athletic).
Foul by Troy Deeney (Watford).
Harry Maguire (Wigan Athletic) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Gianni Munari (Watford).
Kim Bo-Kyung (Wigan Athletic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Fernando Forestieri (Watford) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Gaëtan Bong (Wigan Athletic).
Substitution, Wigan Athletic. Jerome Sinclair replaces Marc-Antoine Fortuné.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Emmerson Boyce.
Attempt blocked. Adlène Guédioura (Watford) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Attempt saved. Gianni Munari (Watford) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Adlène Guédioura.
Attempt missed. Fernando Forestieri (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Troy Deeney.
Attempt missed. Gabriele Angella (Watford) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Daniel Tözsér with a cross following a set piece situation.
Adlène Guédioura (Watford) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Josh Murphy (Wigan Athletic).
Attempt blocked. Troy Deeney (Watford) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked.
Attempt missed. Joel Ekstrand (Watford) left footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the left following a set piece situation.
James Perch (Wigan Athletic) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Troy Deeney (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by James Perch (Wigan Athletic).
Substitution, Watford. Daniel Tözsér replaces Matej Vydra.
Attempt missed. Josh Murphy (Wigan Athletic) right footed shot from more than 35 yards is too high. Assisted by Harry Maguire.
Attempt blocked. Josh Murphy (Wigan Athletic) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Hand ball by Ben Watson (Watford).