SAM Vokes snatched a dramatic stoppage time point for Burnley in a thrill-a-minute blockbuster at Vicarage Road.
The Clarets somehow looked to have ended up on the losing side, despite losing twice through Charlie Austin’s first half brace, including an opener after just 36 seconds and a second from the spot.
Troy Deeney and a double from Italian U20 star Fernando Forestieri looked to have turned the game on its head.
But just as a sell-out crowd were celebrating Watford heading back into the automatic promotion spots, late substitute Vokes pounced onto Austin’s flick to smash home his fourth goal of the campaign and spoil the party.
Burnley had made two changes to the side that suffered last-gasp heartache in the 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers before the two-week international break as they sought to get back to winning ways themselves.
Danny Lafferty replaced the suspended Ben Mee and Danny Ings was preferred to Martin Paterson, starting just behind lone striker Austin.
However, there was a further enforced change when Michael Duff pulled up in the warm-up and was replaced in the starting line-up by Kevin Long.
However, the change clearly didn’t affect the Clarets as they took the lead within 36 seconds. Ross Wallace’s shot was blocked, but only into the path of Austin, who rifled home from eight yards to give Burnley the perfect start.
The lead though, lasted barely six minutes as the Clarets stood-off long enough for Troy Deeney to collect the ball just outside the box and fire an unstoppable drive pasty Lee Grant.
The frantic start continued unabated as the Clarets went straight back onto the attack, with Austin’s goalbound header from Wallace’s corner being blocked.
But the Clarets’ talisman was soon making it 28 for the season from the penalty spot. Alex Kacaniklic was the architect, driving into the box an d having his heels clipped by Marco Cassetti.
And the net result was a typically clinical finish by Austin, drilling his 24th minute spot kick high into the centre of goal to give Jonathan Bond no chance.
Chris McCann had a golden chance to extend the lead just before the half hour, cushioning a volley just over the bar after Bond had failed to get good distance on a clearing punch from Wallace's hanging cross.
And within three minutes, the Hornets were level again in the most fortunate of circumstances.
Marvin Bartley’s clearance cannoned back off referee David Coote and as the ball was fed into the box, Forestieri got a lucky bounce and fired across Grant and into the far corner.
A breathtaking first half showed absolutely no sign of slowing and eight minutes before the break, Wallace almost put Burnley ahead for a third time with a free kick that just curled over the angle.
The Clarets were then indebted to Grant for a superb block from Deeney on the stroke of half time after Kieran Trippier had carelessly conceded possession on the edge of his own penalty area.
And even in stoppage time there was still time for Deeney to beat the offside trap, clip the ball over Grant and watch in anguish as the ball struck the face of the crossbar!
Given the drama of the opening 45 minutes, there was bound to be a calmer start to the second.
But gradually, the Hornets began to turn the screw and in the 57th minute it took a fine far post interception from Lafferty to clear the danger after Matthew Briggs’ fired a dangerous ball across the six-yard box.
But Burnley were not content to sit deep and as the hour approached, perhaps they should have been back ahead.
Kacaniklic picked up a poor clearance from Bond and after finding Ings, picked up a superb reverse pass but only fired weakly at the apologetic goalkeeper as he shaped to curl it into the far corner.
Deeney had been a constant thorn in Burnley’s side throughout the game and midway through the half he almost double his tally to put the Hornets ahead for the first time.
The towering striker met a deflected cross from the left with a firm header, but Grant got down magnificently to make a vital block.
However, following Brian Stock’s introduction for Marvin Bartley, the tide finally turned the 71st minute.
There was little danger when Forestieri controlled a low cross that flew across the 18-yard box, but from a wide position he curled a beauty back across Grant and into the bottom corner.
Sean Dyche rolled the dice with 10 minutes remaining, throwing on Sam Vokes and Martin Paterson for Wallace and Kacaniklic.
And there was to be a sting in the tail as Vokes raced onto Austin’s flick-on to hammer home and hammer a nail through the heart of the Hornets.
BURNLEY: Grant, Trippier, Long, Shackell, Lafferty, Kacaniklic (Paterson 80), McCann, Bartley (Stock 62), Wallace (Vokes 80), Ings, Austin
SUBS: Stanislas, Jensen, Mills
BOOKED: Lafferty 34, Long 55, McCann 64
WATFORD: Bond, Hall, Briggs, Chabolah, Ekstrand, Foristieri, Cassetti (Doyley 49), Battocchio, Anya (Vydra 69), Abdi, Deeney (Geijo 90).
Subs: Yeates, Hogg, Pudil, Bonham
Ref: D Coote
Att: 15,335 (523 Burnley)