Chris Mepham’s last-gasp goal ensured Bournemouth maintained their unbeaten Championship record at fellow high-flyers Watford.
Stipe Perica’s first goal in English football looked set to earn the Hornets a third consecutive win thanks to a resilient defensive display, but they still move up to second and two points from top.
Both teams have made an encouraging start to life back in the second tier and appear to have allayed fears of a relegation hangover, sitting in third and fourth respectively before this game.
Chris Mepham scored five minutes into stoppage time to snatch a point from the contest
Watford thought they were on their way to a third win on the bounce after Stipe Perica’s goal
Watford manager Vladimir Ivic was frustrated as his side narrowly missed out on a victory
Watford: Foster 7, Kabasele 7, Troost-Ekong 7, Cathcart 7, Ngakia 6, Chalobah 6, Garner 6 (Capoue 46, 7), Cleverley 6 (Quina 64, 7), Sema 6, Sarr 8, Perica 7 (Joao Pedro 81)
Subs not used: Wilmot, Murray, Bachmann, Sierralta
Goal: Perica 12
Booked: Garner, Cleverley
Bournemouth: Begovic 7, Mepham 7, S Cook 6, Kelly 5, Stacey 6, L Cook 5, Lerma 5 (Solanke 18, 7), Billing 6, Rico 6, (Riquelme 84) Danjuma 5 (Stanislas 72, 6), King 6
Subs not used: Gosling, Surridge, Travers, Simpson
Goal: Mepham 90+5
Booked: Kelly, Rico
The Cherries were unbeaten in six league games before this with three wins, while Watford’s only loss was a 1-0 reverse at table-topping Reading.
Cherries boss Jason Tindall insisted his side were good value for their point. He said: ‘I felt we deserved it, I felt if we got nothing from today’s game that would have been very harsh because I felt we controlled pretty much the majority of the game. We created some good moments and thankfully for us the goal came. We were the dominant side in the second half.’
However, he admitted Lloyd Kelly could have seen red for a nasty foul on Ismaila Sarr after just two minutes, adding: ‘I’ve got to be honest on another day it could have been a red card but all I do know is lloyd is not that sort of character, not that type of player where he will go in with any malice.’
The opening period was marked by a series of strong challenges from both sides amid chilly conditions in Hertfordshire.
The opener came with barely 10 minutes played, Craig Cathcart finding the dangerous Sarr with a pinpoint ball from the back and the winger sent in a lovely low centre for Stipe Perica to slide home.
Bournemouth responded well to going behind, pinning the hosts back and forcing a succession of corners without truly threatening Ben Foster’s goal.
There were glimpses of some flowing football from Jason Tindall’s men but they lacked a killer touch with Dominic Solanke firing their best chance straight at Foster after a smart turn.
Watford started the second period strongly as Asmir Begovic did well to block Sarr’s shot after a fine through-ball from Etienne Capoue, before the Senegalese was denied a penalty following a clash with Kelly inside the box.
Bournemouth’s Lloyd Kelly was perhaps lucky to just get a yellow for a tackle on Ismaila Sarr
It required a flying save by Foster from Solanke’s effort to keep the scores level.
The one-cap England striker also had another strike deflected behind for a corner but the Cherries found their attacking efforts increasingly stilted.
Substitute Domingos Quina then summoned up a moment of magic, skipping away from Lewis Cook in midfield before his swerving shot almost deceived Begovic, but the stopper managed to fend it away.
The Portuguese youngster came close with another vicious strike but Begovic desperately clawed it to safety again.
Bournemouth’s Diego Rico collides with Sarr who was causing problems for the away side
Deep into the seven minutes of injury-time, Foster palmed over a looping King header.
From the resulting corner Mepham deflected in Kelly’s goalbound shot to maintain Bournemouth’s unbeaten league record and ensure the home side has failed to win in the last 11 encounters between these two sides.
Watford boss Vladimir Ivic was left incensed by the timing of the final whistle, believing his team should have been allowed to complete a final counter-attack. He said: ‘I wanted to ask the referee if it is exactly seven minutes because he didn’t allow us to counter attack two-on-two. Something isn’t right for me. If he finishes it exactly on seven minutes I apologise, but I don’t think it is.
The newly-installed boss also admitted his side must defend set-pieces better following the late concession, adding: ‘I’m pleased with the character of my player, they worked and they gave their maximum and it was one moment in set pieces where we lose the players. We know set pieces are part of the game and we need to be there for them.’