Match ends, Watford 0, Crystal Palace 1.
Watford 0-1 Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace moved up to sixth in the Premier League as Yohan Cabaye's penalty settled a low-key clash against Watford at Vicarage Road.
Wilfried Zaha was the difference as he stepped from the bench and was tripped for the decisive second-half penalty.
Palace deserved victory, having also hit the post through Dwight Gayle.
Jose Jurado's free-kick came back off the bar for Watford, who remain the joint second-lowest scorers in the division.
Palace grateful to wingers
It was no surprise Palace's winner came courtesy of a raid down the flanks - only three teams in the Premier League (Southampton, Manchester City and Newcastle) have delivered more crosses in open play than the Eagles this season.
They put in 19 crosses during the match, but it took a change of personnel to unlock a Watford defence that had not previously conceded at home this season.
Bakary Sako had looked dangerous at times, sliding a ball in for Gayle which was poked onto the post, but substitute Zaha instantly added extra pace and was more direct.
The ex-Manchester United winger won the penalty when he took on full-back Allan Nyom and induced a reckless challenge just inside the area.
Cabaye immediately put himself forward to take the penalty and made no mistake, smashing the ball into the top corner.
Kings of the road
Palace have a superb record away from home under Alan Pardew - they have won nine of 12 matches - but for all their counter attacks and crosses into the box, they only scored once.
Brede Hangeland should have done better when he headed straight at Heurelho Gomes from Cabaye's free-kick, while Gayle's frustrating afternoon continued when he dragged a low shot just wide.
Despite putting in 120 crosses from open play this season, they have scored only nine goals in seven games. Just one of those has come from a cross in open play.
What about Watford?
The Hornets were far from outclassed, despite Palace shading the contest.
Troy Deeney should have done better when he blazed over from close range after Jurado's free-kick hit the bar, with the Spanish playmaker having a late shot superbly blocked by Joe Ledley.
Unlike Palace, they were perhaps too narrow - and right-back Nyom often look exposed as the visitors focused many of their attacks down the right.
Man of the match - Wilfried Zaha
Former Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd, speaking to BBC Radio 5 live sports extra: "We've seen two teams who are evenly matched. Palace looked to counter attack from the very start, while Watford looked to build but didn't get Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney involved enough.
"Palace have got to keep their players fit and if they add in January who knows where they could finish.
"Away from home they are really difficult opponents, but at home they will have to come out a bit more; you might see more boring games because counter attack is their strength."
What the managers said
Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew: "The wide guys made the breakthough, it was actually Wilfried Zaha a substitute that did that. I have three great options but only two can play. It was nice that Wilf got that reaction, we trust him.
"The penalty was a very good decision, the ball was just outside the box but the challenge was inside. It was dispatched by Yohan Cabaye, though Dwight Gayle was meant to be taking it so it surprised me.
"Cabaye's got experience and confidence to do it at any level. He's level and confident, Dwight has had his share of penalties, he had two this week, so it would have been a bit greedy."
Watford manager Quique Flores: "There was not much difference between the two sides today.
"It was difficult to stop their attack, it was uncomfortable for us. We need to open up the pitch more.
"We did not stop the counter-attack, we were disorganised. It was a very big decision from the referee to decide the match. I am not sure."
The stats you need to know
- Watford have yet to concede a first-half goal in the Premier League this season, while Palace have conceded just once in the opening 45 minutes.
- Watford have not beaten Palace at home since February 2009 - they have drawn two and lost three since then.
- Palace kept their first clean sheet of the season at Vicarage Road.
Watford visit fellow Premier League new boys Bournemouth next weekend, with Crystal Palace hosting West Brom.
- 2NyomSubstituted forAkéat 75'minutes
- 5PrödlBooked at 79mins
- 15CathcartBooked at 82mins
- 22AbdiBooked at 39minsSubstituted forBerghuisat 64'minutes
- 23WatsonSubstituted forIbarboat 82'minutes
- 7JuradoBooked at 70mins
- 13HennesseyBooked at 90mins
- 7CabayeBooked at 76minsSubstituted forMcArthurat 77'minutes
- 42PuncheonBooked at 81mins
- 26SakoSubstituted forZahaat 62'minutesBooked at 88mins
- 16GayleSubstituted forCampbellat 85'minutes
- Anthony Taylor
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Watford 0, Crystal Palace 1.
Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Sebastian Prödl (Watford).
Scott Dann (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Jurado (Watford) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Corner, Watford. Conceded by Fraizer Campbell.
Troy Deeney (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Brede Hangeland (Crystal Palace).
Attempt missed. Yannick Bolasie (Crystal Palace) right footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Wilfried Zaha.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Etienne Capoue (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace).
Víctor Ibarbo (Watford) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Martin Kelly (Crystal Palace).
Substitution, Crystal Palace. Fraizer Campbell replaces Dwight Gayle.
Attempt missed. Dwight Gayle (Crystal Palace) left footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Jason Puncheon.
Attempt missed. Steven Berghuis (Watford) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.
Foul by Nathan Aké (Watford).
Jason Puncheon (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Substitution, Watford. Víctor Ibarbo replaces Ben Watson.
Craig Cathcart (Watford) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Craig Cathcart (Watford).
Dwight Gayle (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Jason Puncheon (Crystal Palace) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Ben Watson (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Jason Puncheon (Crystal Palace).
Attempt saved. Jason Puncheon (Crystal Palace) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Sebastian Prödl (Watford) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Sebastian Prödl (Watford).
Dwight Gayle (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Dwight Gayle (Crystal Palace) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Yannick Bolasie with a headed pass.
Substitution, Crystal Palace. James McArthur replaces Yohan Cabaye.
Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Jurado (Watford) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace).
Attempt missed. Yannick Bolasie (Crystal Palace) right footed shot from more than 35 yards is close, but misses to the right.
Substitution, Watford. Nathan Aké replaces Nyom.
Nyom (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Dwight Gayle (Crystal Palace).