It seems to be the collective will of all the Championship promotion contenders to take the race for places in the Premier League down to the wire. Back in front, on goal difference, after snatching a victory at Blackpool in midweek, Albion knew they could consolidate by winning yesterday's tea-time fixture against faltering Watford yet could manage only a point, coming from behind.
It means Stoke, having claimed pole position by winning at Coventry, stay in front by a point from Tony Mowbray's side, who can take the lead again if they get at least a draw from what promises to be a feverish Black Country derby against Wolves at Molineux on Tuesday.
Watford, extraordinarily, remain in the race despite managing only one win in the last 11 matches. Their manager, Aidy Boothroyd, who was booed after watching his side fall to an embarrassing 3-0 home defeat against Barnsley in midweek, was unsurprisingly upbeat. "Three points off the top with three games to go – if you had given me that at the start of the season, I'd have taken it," he said.
With the restoration of Kevin Phillips to the starting line-up after his two-goal intervention from the bench at Blackpool, Albion fans expected to see their team's handsome goals tally – 102 in all competitions at kick-off – boosted further. Instead, their other, less useful habit of conceding early proved costly.
"They are hard to break down and with our custom of giving the opposition a goal start, we made it difficult for ourselves," Mowbray said. Watford grabbed the lead in the sixth minute. Dean Kiely made a good save to repel John-Joe O'Toole's header from Jobi McAnuff's corner, but could do nothing to stop the unmarked defender Leigh Bromby from sweeping home the loose ball for his first Watford goal.
Thereafter, Watford had easily the busier defence as Robert Koren and Jonathan Greening dominated midfield. Yet until Neil Clement hit the bar with a sharply dipping free-kick in first-half stoppage time it had been Watford who were closest to scoring the contest's second goal, Kiely reacting well to push away Tamas Priskin's header.
Albion retained their composure and, within three minutes of the restart, equalised. Generously awarded a free-kick when John Eustace, just outside the Watford penalty area, was judged to have fouled Koren, they seized their chance as Leon Barnett stole in to nod Zoltan Gera's cross past Richard Lee. Albion had the better chances thereafter and substitute Roman Bednar had a goal ruled out by a questionable offside flag.