Bakary Sako’s equaliser two minutes into stoppage time spared Wolves the full force of their fans’ anger after Watford had threatened another uncomfortable night for manager Dean Saunders and the club’s board.
It still leaves Wolves with much to do to avoid becoming the first club in Football League history to suffer the indignity of back-to-back relegations for a second time and that remains a possibility after 12 Championship matches without a win.
Watford, who have climbed to second place under Gianfranco Zola, went ahead through Almen Abdi’s first-half free kick and ultimately paid the price for missing chances to extend their lead.
“We haven’t won the game but if feels like a win and hopefully it can give the players a bit of belief,” Saunders said. “It is not an easy place to play at the moment and I hope they can gain strength from it. People can think they don’t care or they don’t try but they do care and they do try and I’m pleased for them.”
After a protest by fans before the game, Wolves went close to lifting the mood in the 19th minute, when only a fine double save by Watford’s 19-year-old goalkeeper, Jonathan Bond, denied them the lead as Kevin Doyle’s strike and Bjorn Sigurdarson’s firmly struck follow-up were both repelled.
Otherwise, most of the action was in front of Carl Ikeme’s goal. With Troy Deeney restored to Watford’s front rank alongside 20-goal Matej Vydra and Ikechi Anya posing danger on the left flank, it seemed only a matter of time before the home side’s resistance cracked, which it did in the 41st minute. Vydra won a free kick against Karl Henry and the Swiss midfielder Abdi curled the ball over the wall and just far enough from Ikeme’s fingertips to score his 10th goal of the season.
Watford should have won comfortably. Ikeme pulled off a fine fingertip save from Marco Cassetti but both Anya and substitute Fernando Forestieri missed better opportunities. Then Sako seized on the ball from a long throw in stoppage time and beat Bond from the edge of the box.
“It is disappointing,” Zola said. “I didn’t see it coming. A 1-0 lead away from home is often not enough and we needed to be more clinical.”
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Ikeme; Doherty, Johnson, Gorkss, Robinson; Sako, Henry (Davis, 70), O’Hara, Hunt (Cassidy, 64); Sigurdarson, Doyle (Ebanks-Blake, 64). Substitutes not used: De Vries, Batth, Edwards, Ward.
Watford (3-5-2): Bond; Doyley, Nosworthy, Ekstrand; Cassetti, Abdi, Chalobah (Hogg, 82), Battocchio, Anya (Pudil, 84); Deeney, Vydra (Forestieri, 78). Substitutes not used: Yeates, Murray, Bonham, Geijo.
Referee: P Tierney (Lancashire)