A remarkable goal settled an unremarkable game as the Watford manager set his sights on automatic promotion to the Premiership and his Brighton counterpart claimed his side could still avoid relegation from the Championship.
Both managers will probably be proved to be honourable failures. Watford, who move up to third, remain 10 points behind Sheffield United, and Brighton are now second from bottom and in danger of losing touch despite being the better team for most of this game.
The only thing for certain is that Chris Eagles' goal will live long in the memory of well over 6,000 fans at Brighton's pitiful ground. He drove the sweetest of shots in from the halfway line on the stroke of half-time.
Eagles, 20, is on loan from Manchester United and wears the No 7 shirt. The last United No 7 to make his mark with a similar goal was David Beckham a decade ago - only time will tell whether Eagles makes similar progress.
Watford's six-game winning run ended when they had two players sent off at promotion rivals Leeds in midweek, so this was an important result for them. Their manager, Adrian Boothroyd, said: "We now need to focus on what is ahead and maintain our challenge by trying to win every game. The goal was fantastic. I had an excellent view of it and could see the ball was going in from the moment he struck it. Beckham's goal was similar but his was a lob, whereas this was more of a drive. He's a delightful personality and a great prospect - if he goes back to Old Trafford, he will go back a better player."
Brighton had dominated the game before Eagles' goal went in and Watford had to thank keeper Alec Chamberlain, 41, for playing so well in place of the suspended Ben Foster. Chamberlain's opposite number, Wayne Henderson, also had a good match, but it was his desperate headed clearance that presented Eagles with his chance to score the goal.
Eagles said: "I saw Beckham's goal when I was a kid and I have tried to do that sort of thing before in training. Beckham has always been my hero and I love Manchester United, but my main aim now is to get Watford into the Premiership."
Brighton's manager, Mark McGhee, would love to have the finishing quality of Eagles in his side as he prepares to dig in for the desperate relegation battle ahead. He said: "Our lack of finishing quality cost us the game as it has done throughout the season.
"But our situation does not get any tougher because the results around us were not too bad. It would help if I could sign a forward because we are still creating enough chances to win games and we have to take them if we are going to achieve what I believe is possible and stay up."Reuse content