This was a contest that summed up the narrow divide between success and failure for two of the Championship's most respected managers and teams – and reinforced the value of sheer gutsy determination. Two goals down at the interval, Watford were invigorated by the powerful urge of Danny Shittu to recover and fight back to draw.
The result left both Charlton's Alan Pardew and Watford's Aidy Boothroyd to reflect carefully, however, on their failings as much as celebrate the attainment of a point instead of three.
"I thought Watford's first goal changed the game and it looked offside – and we were shocked," Pardew said. "I told the linesman I hope he got his decision right because it altered the result. I'm convinced we would normally have defended better for the second goal."
Boothroyd, who continued his half-time team talk on the pitch shortly before the second period started, said: "I reminded them that it is the inches that count if we want to win the Championship. Stoke showed that on Friday – they were 2-0 down against Scunthorpe but fought back to win 3-2. They are top because they have scored one more goal than us. Promotion will be decided by such fine margins. I said to the players that someone would have to make the difference."
Watford's point, courtesy of Shittu's unmarked equalising header just a minute after John-Joe O'Toole had pulled a goal back, hoisted them back level with Stoke, but left Charlton – undermined by their home record – facing a fight to gain an automatic promotion place.
"Whichever way you dress it up, you have to say when you are 2-0 up at halftime that you would expect to win, but it was a cracking game, Watford played a full part," Pardew said.
"Now, we can't afford too many more draws or defeats. We need to go on a big run and get those wins. And I think Lee Cook can play a part for us in that. Our flair players will be very important to us.
"The referee assisted them with some of his decisions, and he damaged us by blowing up on other occasions. We are playing catch-up and it would have been huge for us to get three points. Things like that can cost you at the end of the season."
Cook, a left-winger on loan from Fulham, shone after replacing Darren Ambrose in the second half, but could not outdazzle the big smile of the Nigerian defender Shittu, who scored at both ends on his return to the club where he started his career. "I was pleased for Dan to come here and score," Boothroyd said. "I knew it meant a lot to him."
Shittu had sliced into his own net in the first half to put Charlton 2-0 up after Ambrose shot them ahead from close range. But his courage and determination typified Watford's response and endorsed their credentials for an immediate return to the Premier League.
Goals: Ambrose (15) 1-0; Shittu og (36) 2-0; O'Toole (54) 2-1; Shittu (55) 2-2.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Weaver; Halford, McCarthy, Fortune, Youga; Sam (Thomas, 77), Zheng, Holland, Ambrose (Cook, 68); Varney, Gray (Iwelumo, 78). Substitutes not used: Elliot (gk), Sodje.
Watford (4-4-2): Lee; Mariappa, Shittu, Bromby, Sadler; Smith, Bangura (O'Toole h-t), Eustace, McAnuff; Henderson, Ellington. Substitutes not used: Poom (gk), Doyley, Williamson, Ainsworth.
Referee: P Taylor (Hertfordshire).
Booked: Watford Ellington.
Man of the match: Shittu.
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