James Tarkowski’s first goal for the Clarets was not enough to prevent a losing start to the Premier League campaign at Turf Moor as Watford ended their away-day drought.
Watford had lost 11 of their last 12 away games in the league and not tasted joy on the road since November.
But they made the most of their fresh start to make it back-to-back wins to kick off the campaign as the Clarets were undone by goals at the start of each half.
Tarkowski cancelled out the first strike from ex-Claret Andre Gray.
But two goals inside four minutes just after the break from Troy Deeney and Will Hughes proved too great an obstacle to overcome as Sean Dyche’s men conceded three goals at home for the first time since December and only the second time since being promoted back to the top flight in 2016.
The Clarets’ impressive first-half performance – coming just three days after they had booked their place in the play-off round of the Europa League – hadn’t hinted at what was to come.
But the visitors seized their opportunities in impressive style to leave the Clarets hoping to mirror the response they showed to losing their first home game to West Bromwich Albion 12 months ago.
Watford hadn’t scored an away goal in the Premier League since January but took just three minutes of their first trip of the new season to end the wait.
Gray had been the man who had last found the net on the Hornets’ travels and it was the former Burnley man who was on target again.
He had already had one sighter of goal – Stephen Ward making an excellent block – before rewarding the visitors for their lively start with a top-class strike.
Gray’s one-two with Deeney allowed Deeney to deliver a driven cross which his strike partner met at the near post with a first-time volleyed finished which he steered inside Joe Hart’s left-hand post.
Crucially, though, it took the Clarets less than five minutes to level thanks to an impressive response.
Tarkowski had played with Gray at both Burnley and Brentford and matched what his former team-mate could do by climbing highest to powerfully nod in a Johann Berg Gudmundsson corner.
Burnley then swarmed all over the Hornets for a spell, moving the ball well and penetrating down both flanks in a highly watchable game.
Gudmundsson forced Ben Foster into a flying save to keep out his goal-bound free-kick and Jack Cork – continuing his flourishing midfield partnership with Ashley Westwood –a shot blocked as the Clarets pressed for a second goal.
Watford weren’t here just to make up the numbers, though, and threatened themselves on the break.
Deeney forced Hart into a smart save from a long-range skidding effort.
But it was the Clarets who almost went into the break in front as Watford’s goal led a charmed life following another incisive passage of play.
Foster pushed away an effort from Jeff Hendrick after he had been slipped in by Ward and then after Jose Holebas had just got to the loose ball first ahead of Aaron Lennon – whose combination with Matt Lowton had been a feature of the half – Westwood followed up with a piledriver he struck just over the top.
Dyche had gone back to the side that started last Sunday’s opener at Southampton as the Clarets played their sixth game in 25 days in tandem with their Europa League exploits.
There was no sign of fatigue, but the Clarets were still caught cold at the start of the second half as two goals in six minutes put Watford in control.
Deeney got the first, poking the ball past Hart after being superbly picked out by Abdoulaye Doucoure after his initial shot had been blocked.
And Hughes, booked in the first half for a high and late challenge on Ward which Burnley boss Dyche felt merited a red card, then made it 3-1 with a cracking strike into the top corner from almost 25 yards after Lowton’s mis-placed pass had given the Watford midfielder a run at goal.
With a two-goal cushion the Hornets were able to try and take the sting out of the game and let the Clarets chase the ball.
But with Dyche trying to find a way back into the contest he sent on Ashley Barnes and Sam Vokes.
And with his first touch Vokes almost repeated the instant impact he made at Vicarage Road in April when he came off the bench to spark a successful comeback and one of the wins that helped secure the European place.
This time, though, his downward header from a Gudmundsson free-kick skidded inches past the post.
And with the Clarets unable to force another opening – Ben Mee hooking a volley over the bar in inuury-time from the best of them – that might have put late doubt in Watford’s mind, there was to be no successful fightback this time.
Burnley: Hart, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Ward (Taylor 74), Lennon, Westwood, Cork, Gudmundsson, Hendrick (Vokes 70), Wood (Barnes 65). Substitutes: Heaton, Gibson Bardsley, Long.
Watford: Foster, Janmaat, Cathcart, Kabasele, Holebas, Hughes (Femenia 83), Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra, Deeney (Success 88), Gray (Sema 68). Substitutes: Gomes, Prodl, Mariappa, Masina.
Booked: Hughes, Janmaat
Referee: Paul Tierney