Sick of conceding goals from crosses, Watford decided to dish out some of their own medicine at the other end as they thrillingly came from behind to win a game for the second time this season.
Three crosses into the box yielded two goals for Stefano Okaka and another for Sebastian Prodl as Watford recovered from a 17th-minute opener to Romelu Lukaku to end a run of two consecutive defeats. Lukaku showed Watford still have work to do at the other end by nodding in the 11th goal the Hornets have conceded from a cross in open play, setting up a grandstand finish but Watford, with a few nerves jangling, held on. This lot don’t make things easy for themselves, do they?
Walter Mazzarri has lacked credibility when arguing Watford deserved more against Stoke City and West Brom in recent weeks but there was no doubt his side were worthy winners of the Z-Cars derby, their first over Everton in more than 30 years and one that moves them into the top half of the table.
Stefano Okaka will, quite rightly, get the plaudits. He was lucky to emerge after half-time at West Brom last week and probably even luckier to start today, especially with Odion Ighalo and, more pressingly, Isaac Success breathing down his neck. But he repaid Mazzarri’s faith in him with the deftest of flicks for the opener and then gave Watford that all-important two-goal cushion with the third. Both goals were taken with surprising cuteness by this brute of a striker.
Watford were a touch unfortunate to find themselves behind after 17 minutes. It would be stretching it to say the Hornets had made all the running but they had certainly matched their higher ranked opponents in the opening exchanges. Yet it was one hopeful pass from Gareth Barry that ended up bisecting Prodl and Miguel Britos, leaving Lukaku the simple task of beating Heurelho Gomes. On the back of two defeats, it was not the start Watford wanted.
They could have folded but, instead, they rolled their sleeves up. It might have been a bit direct at times but Watford played to their strengths, bypassing the midfield and getting the ball forward to their hulking front men.
Okaka should have done better after a neat lay-off from Deeney on 20 minutes; Britos sent a near post header over the bar; Deeney’s touch let him down after Nordin Amrabat had got past both Leighton Baines and Funes Mori and Adlene Guedioura headed weakly at Stekelenburg.
Watford seemed likely to muscle their way back into the game but the equaliser came with the deftest of touches from the biggest man on the pitch, Okaka scoring his first Premier League goal since he was on target for Fulham in 2010.
They could, and probably should, have been 2-1 up had Deeney got a better connection with a ball that dropped over the head of Seamus Coleman and into his path at the far post, but Watford still went into the break with the momentum.
They still had it early in the second half and, eventually, translated it into something tangible either of the hour mark. Prodl, who had a decent chance just before, made no mistake with a header from a Jose Holebas outswinger. The Greek defender was again the architect for the second, his inswinging corner this time picking out the near-post run of Okaka who flicked a header past Stekelenburg. It looked game over.
It would have been had Stekelenburg, somehow, not managed to keep out a diving header from Britos, again from a ball into the box. Britos couldn’t believe he hadn’t scored.
Without a win in four games, Everton looked dead and buried and Ronald Koeman threw on Ross Barkley, Aaron Lennon and Enner Valencia on in search of a route back into the match. And it was Lennon who opened the door for Everton, sending over a gift-wrapped cross that Lukaku was not about to turn down with five minutes left. Game on.
There was a half a shout for a penalty when Britos climbed on the back of Valencia but Anthony Taylor, who was hounded out of here around this time last year after sending off Nathan Ake, was not about to award that.
Watford: Gomes; Zuniga (Kabasele 90), Prodl, Britos, Holebas; Guedioura (Janmaat 60), Behrami, Capoue; Amrabat, Okaka (Watson 80), Deeney.
Everton: Stekelenburg; Coleman, Williams, Funes Mori, Baines (Lennon 83); Gueye, Barry, McCarthy; Deulofeu, Lukaku, Mirallas (Valencia 70).
Attendance: 20,769 (2,167 Everton fans)