Cardiff City kept up their Championship play-off hopes as goals from Ross McCormack, Peter Whittingham and Chris Burke helped beat Watford.
McCormack put the Bluebirds ahead on seven minutes, shooting home a half-volley from a corner.
Though Cardiff were under the cosh either side of half-time, Whittingham headed home on 63 minutes.
An individual goal from Burke on 78 minutes sealed the win but Watford got one back through Heidar Helguson.
The Bluebirds were without defender Kevin McNaughton, who was ruled out with a thigh injury, while Anthony Gerrard was also an absentee with a calf strain.
Striker Michael Chopra returned from a two-match suspension on the bench with Gabor Gyepes fit to start at the back.
Watford were without centre-back Jay DeMerit and midfielder Henri Lansbury after they suffered back and hip injuries respectively. Lee Hodson came in for DeMerit with Adrian Mariappa moving into the centre of defence.
The home side have relied heavily on Whittingham's goals from midfield this season, but he turned creator to give Dave Jones' side the perfect start.
His pinpoint corner to the far edge of the penalty area found McCormack and the striker showed excellent technique to meet the ball on the half-volley and flash a low strike beyond Scott Loach for his fourth goal of the season.
Watford had made a timid start and the goal seemed to stun them into action with Will Hoskins seeing his spectacular overhead effort go just over the crossbar from a Don Cowie corner.
The visitors' best chance of an equaliser looked to be from their set-piece with Helguson seeing his 24th-minute header deflected wide before Martin Taylor hit the post from the next corner, with Cardiff keeper David Marshall relieved to recover the loose ball.
Watford continued to pile on the pressure, much to the frustration of the home faithful and, after yet another corner, captain John Eustace looped a header off the crossbar.
Tom Cleverley then freed Hoskins down the right and it took a superb clearance from Paul Quinn to deny Helguson a simple tap-in when the ball was eventually fired across the box.
Jones brought Tony Capaldi on for Mark Kennedy at the interval to give the former Plymouth man his 200th career league appearance.
But the change made little difference to the pattern of the game with Hoskins continuing to prove a real handful for Gyepes and Darcy Blake in the Cardiff defence.
But Whittingham eased Cardiff's nerves as the Bluebirds grabbed their second goal in the 63rd minute.
Burke, who had been making little impact on the right flank, produced a high cross to the far post and Whittingham showed his strength to head the ball past a flat-footed Loach.
And it almost became 3-0 as Loach denied City skipper Jay Bothroyd by keeping out his header with an acrobatic save.
But Loach was beaten moments later when Burke embarked on a mazy run from the halfway line and, after briefly losing control, fired a low shot into the net.
Watford then got a deserved consolation late on as Helguson fired a fine shot beyond Marshall in injury time.
Jones hails free-scoring Cardiff
Cardiff City manager Dave Jones said:
"They [Watford] don't want to get into that relegation fight and they are decent going forward.
"It was a great corner from us [for the first goal]. We worked it well. We practised that yesterday.
"We felt we could capitalise on the way they set up and when it comes off it's really nice, so full credit to my coaching team for working on it.
"But it was a battle. It was hard the first half. I felt the second half we had a bit more composure and the second goal eased everybody's nerves and we went on to win it quite comfortably after that."
Mackay aggrieved with Cardiff loss
Watford manager Malky Mackay said:
"There was a period in the first half where we had numerous chances and I felt we certainly deserved to get something out of the game.
"We have to learn that both boxes count and they certainly did today.
"But to come down and play the way we did, I have got to be proud of the players. We now have to focus on the next game and get as many points as possible."
90:00+3:40 Chris Burke decides to take a short corner.
90:00+2:17 Danny Graham provided the assist for the goal.
90:00+2:17 GOAL - Heidar Helguson:Cardiff 3 - 1 Watford Heidar Helguson finds the net with a goal from deep inside the penalty box to the top left corner of the goal. Cardiff 3-1
89:59 Effort from the edge of the area by Stephen McGinn goes wide of the right-hand upright.
87:47 The referee blows for offside against Heidar Helguson. David Marshall takes the indirect free kick.
86:05 Free kick awarded for a foul by John Eustace on Michael Chopra. Stephen McPhail takes the direct free kick.
85:28 Stephen McPhail gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on William Buckley. William Buckley delivers the ball from
the free kick right-footed from left wing, David Marshall makes a comfortable save.
84:45 Substitution Michael Chopra on for Ross McCormack.
82:47 Free kick awarded for a foul by Lloyd Doyley on Warren Feeney. Free kick taken by Paul Quinn.
81:30 Tom Cleverley takes a shot. Blocked by Gabor Gyepes.
80:23 Substitution Jay Bothroyd leaves the field to be replaced by Warren Feeney.
77:26 Assist on the goal came from Stephen McPhail.
77:26 GOAL - Chris Burke:Cardiff 3 - 0 Watford Chris Burke finds the net with a goal from close range to the bottom left corner of the goal. Cardiff 3-0 Watford.
76:43 Unfair challenge on Stephen McGinn by Gabor Gyepes results in a free kick. Free kick crossed right-footed by Tom Cleverley,
clearance made by Gavin Rae.
76:31 Inswinging corner taken by William Buckley from the left by-line.
75:38 Jay Bothroyd takes a shot. Save by Scott Loach.
74:56 The assistant referee signals for offside against Danny Graham. Free kick taken by Gabor Gyepes.
73:45 Lloyd Doyley takes the free kick.
73:45 Booking Stephen McGinn is shown a yellow card for dissent.
73:22 Free kick awarded for a foul by Gavin Rae on Tom Cleverley.
73:00 Effort from 20 yards by Heidar Helguson. David Marshall makes a comfortable save.
66:19 Substitution William Buckley is brought on as a substitute for Don Cowie.
66:06 Jay Bothroyd has an effort from just inside the box that misses to the left of the goal.
65:32 Foul by Don Cowie on Peter Whittingham, free kick awarded. David Marshall takes the direct free kick.
64:31 Free kick awarded for a foul by John Eustace on Stephen McPhail. Ross McCormack produces a strike on goal direct from the
62:49 Assist on the goal came from Chris Burke.
62:49 GOAL - Peter Whittingham:Cardiff 2 - 0 Watford Peter Whittingham grabs a headed goal from inside the penalty box. Cardiff 2-0 Watford.
62:01 Substitution Will Hoskins leaves the field to be replaced by Danny Graham.
57:47 Effort from the edge of the area by Don Cowie goes wide of the left-hand post.
54:50 Corner from the left by-line taken by Don Cowie, save made by David Marshall.
54:27 Heidar Helguson produces a left-footed shot from the edge of the area and misses to the left of the target.
52:04 Substitution Stephen McGinn is brought on as a substitute for Ross Jenkins.
49:16 Martin Taylor is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Indirect free kick taken by David Marshall.
48:54 Handball decision goes against Jay Bothroyd. Scott Loach takes the free kick.
47:57 Unfair challenge on Gavin Rae by Don Cowie results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Darcy Blake.
46:00 Peter Whittingham produces a left-footed shot from just outside the area that goes harmlessly over the bar.
45:01 The game restarts for the second half.
45:01 Substitution (Cardiff) makes a substitution, with Tony Capaldi coming on for Mark Kennedy.
45:00+4:12 The ref blows to signal half-time.
45:00+3:46 Gabor Gyepes fouled by Ross Jenkins, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by David Marshall.
45:00+1:33 Stephen McPhail handles the ball and concedes a free kick. Scott Loach restarts play with the free kick.
44:50 Stephen McPhail challenges Heidar Helguson unfairly and gives away a free kick. Tom Cleverley fires a strike on goal direct
from the free kick, save made by David Marshall.
44:20 Free kick awarded for a foul by Gavin Rae on Adrian Mariappa. Free kick taken by Scott Loach.
41:38 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Ross Jenkins by Ross McCormack. Scott Loach takes the free kick.
Correction - 41:04 Will Hoskins has a mishit shot. Save by David Marshall.
41:04 Will Hoskins takes the chance to get an effort at goal. David Marshall makes a comfortable save.
38:49 Heidar Helguson concedes a free kick for a foul on Mark Kennedy. David Marshall takes the direct free kick.
37:48 Effort on goal by Peter Whittingham from inside the box misses to the right of the target.
36:26 Scott Loach restarts play with the free kick.
36:26 Booking The referee books Jay Bothroyd for unsporting behaviour.
36:00 Free kick awarded for a foul by Jay Bothroyd on Adrian Mariappa.
35:28 Heidar Helguson has an effort at goal from the edge of the box that misses to the right of the target.
33:43 Corner taken right-footed by Don Cowie, Header by John Eustace from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the
31:09 Martin Taylor fouled by Jay Bothroyd, the ref awards a free kick. Scott Loach takes the free kick.
30:59 The referee blows for offside. Darcy Blake takes the free kick.
29:28 The assistant referee signals for offside against Jay Bothroyd. Indirect free kick taken by Scott Loach.
29:05 Mark Kennedy takes a shot.
Correction - 28:50 Shot by Mark Kennedy.
28:42 Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Peter Whittingham.
26:18 Will Hoskins is ruled offside. Free kick taken by David Marshall.
25:44 Short corner taken by Don Cowie from the left by-line.
25:20 Corner taken by Tom Cleverley, Shot from 18 yards by Don Cowie. Blocked by Chris Burke.
24:01 Tom Cleverley takes the inswinging corner, Martin Taylor takes a shot.
23:42 Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Tom Cleverley, Headed effort from inside the area by Heidar Helguson misses to the
right of the target.
19:06 Stephen McPhail has an effort at goal from outside the box missing to the wide left of the goal.
15:28 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Stephen McPhail by Ross Jenkins. Direct free kick taken by Darcy Blake.
13:57 Shot by Chris Burke. Martin Taylor gets a block in.
Correction - 12:26 Corner taken right-footed by Don Cowie from the right by-line, Shot on goal by Will Hoskins from just inside the area goes
over the target.
12:26 Corner taken by Don Cowie, Will Hoskins takes a shot from just outside the penalty area which clears the crossbar.
10:37 Adrian Mariappa fouled by Jay Bothroyd, the ref awards a free kick. Scott Loach takes the direct free kick.
10:06 Heidar Helguson challenges Paul Quinn unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by David Marshall.
8:57 Unfair challenge on Tom Cleverley by Stephen McPhail results in a free kick. Adrian Mariappa takes the direct free kick.
7:45 Don Cowie produces a right-footed shot from just outside the box that misses to the right of the net.
6:53 Assist on the goal came from Peter Whittingham.
6:53 GOAL - Ross McCormack:Cardiff 1 - 0 Watford Ross McCormack grabs a goal from just outside the box to the bottom left corner of the goal. Cardiff 1-0 Watford.
6:45 Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Peter Whittingham,
3:59 Peter Whittingham takes the outswinging corner, clearance by Adrian Mariappa.
0:42 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Tom Cleverley by Mark Kennedy. Free kick crossed right-footed by Lloyd Doyley,
David Marshall makes a comfortable save.
0:00 The referee gets the game underway.
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