A roar would’ve been heard comfortably even from the very tops of Emley Moor as Tom Ince struck on the cusp of second-half injury-time to hand Town a massive three points in the battle to stay in the Premier League.
Javi Gracia’s Hornets proved to be of a great difficulty to break down, as key chances for both were few and far between. But what mattered in the end was that when one came the Terriers way, it was finished with aplomb by the left-foot of Ince to cap a superb afternoon all-round.
There was only one starting XI alteration in the form of Collin Quaner chosen ahead of hero Ince; a squad provided with a boost following the appearance of Skipper Jonathan Hogg on the teamsheet despite leaving the field with a knock in the spirited 1-1 draw at Brighton a week previous.
Alex Pritchard was keen to build on an impressive offensive display down in Sussex, and teased with close control in the opening passages. Sebastian Prodl laid down his own marker nonetheless, firmly standing in the way of the January signing’s advances into a dangerous area.
Pritchard then turned to probing with a wide free-kick delivery, which the arriving duo of Zanka and the rejuvenated Steve Mounié gratefully took up the chance to meet.
Buoyed by the terrific John Smith’s Stadium atmosphere, Town had a spring in their step. Florent Hadergjonaj the next man to surge forward, and as an inviting gap looked to open up, the desired cut-back to the supporting Aaron Mooy fell inches short of it’s intended target.
Good play from both sides in varying senses in the next attack for the confident Terriers. Aaron Mooy’s loft over the heads of Watford’s central defensive unit set Collin Quaner on his way, and as the reinstated German strode through, Adrian Mariappa recovered timely to produce a perfect sliding dispossesion just as the winger looked to pull the trigger.
Proceedings settled down, with Town the side relatively on the front foot. A tidiness in possession evident throughout, as the Head Coach would have been relatively happy with the way the opening 30 minutes had turned out.
It took Javi Gracia’s Hornets 30 minutes to muster a first real chance. Troy Deeney used his physical presence to create an opening, but a low powerful strike was crucially diverted by a brave Florent Hadergjonaj block on the slide.
Abdoulaye Doucoure followed up to round off a quick succession of away chances, and the man who scored a thunderbolt in the reverse fixture this time found Jonas Lössl more than equal to the task of keeping the scores level.
Town continued to see a lot of the ball, and although the retention was of a composed standard, the final product was yet to come to fruition as the Hertfordshire Club stood firm with a defiant defensive structure. Plenty of positives to build on the other side of the break in the hunt for that all important opener.
The affair was cagey to say the least, with no clear cut chances as the second-half unfolded. Christopher Schindler was a whisker away from glancing home at the near post from a wicked Aaron Mooy corner- the closest either outfit had come to breaking the deadlock in the latter 45 so far.
A combination of ex-Hornet Jonathan Hogg and Terence Kongolo fought valiantly to bring Will Hughes’ mazy run into the box to a halt, and the England under-21 had made dangerous ground but ultimately found himself smothered before any potential goal-bound threat could materialise.
Tensions were rising, as Town dug deep to break Watford down. Steve Mounié had a shot blocked in space on the edge of the penalty mark as a result of Tom Ince’s initial effort rebounded kindly to the Benin International, ahead of Rajiv van La Parra cutting in from the native left to curl agonisingly wide of Karnezis’ left post.
Referee Craig Pawson was called into action as Alex Pritchard took a tumble in the box under a challenge from Sebastian Prodl. The man with the whistle decided against awarding a spot-kick, and the away side were let off the hook as the Terrier faithful vociferously voiced their hopes of a late winner.
Edging forward, a long Philip Billing thrown-in was hesitantly cleared only as far as Jonathan Hogg. The Skipper drilled a tantalising effort inches wide of the post on the half-volley which most thought would’ve been the catalyst to spark a late onslaught.
It may not have been an onslaught, but Town got what they deserved in the dying seconds courtesy of Tom Ince.
Superb work from Zanka to work an opening ended with the ball being rolled across the face of goal to which Tom Ince duly slotted home on his 300th career Club appearance. The roof was well and truly lifted off the John Smith’s Stadium as the scenes of utter jubilation amongst the sea of Blue and White was filled with unrivalled emotion and relief as Town took an almighty step to securing that pivotal place in the Premier League.
David Wagner’s men look to follow-up this afternoon’s late success in a fortnight’s time, as Everton make the trip to Kirklees (April 28, 3pm).
TOWN (4-2-3-1): Jonas Lössl; Terence Kongolo, Christopher Schindler, Mathias Zanka, Florent Hadergjonaj; Jonathan Hogg (c), Aaron Mooy; Rajiv van La Parra (Philip Billing, 77’), Alex Pritchard, Collin Quaner (Tom Ince, 60’); Steve Mounié (Laurent Depoitre, 71’)
UNUSED SUBS: Joel Coleman, Tommy Smith, Scott Malone, Chris Lowe
WATFORD: Orestis Karnezis; Kiko Femenia (Richarlison, 58’), Sebastian Prodl, Adrian Mariappa, Craig Cathcart, Daryl Janmaat; Abdoulaye Doucoure, Will Hughes (Jerome Sinclair, 90’)=, Etienne Capoue; Roberto Pereyra, Troy Deeney (c)(Andre Gray, 81’)
UNUSED SUBS: Heurelho Gomes, Miguel Britos, Christian Kabasele, Stefano Okaka
REFEREE: Craig Pawson