It was an own goal from Watford goalkeeper Heurelo Gomes that settled a scrappy game in Stoke's favour.
But for Stoke, more significantly, it's three more precious points that moved them into mid-table and further out of trouble.
Their poor start to the season, with Stoke propping up the Premier League table just two months ago, seems a distant memory. Built on their work ethic and organisation, they had few scares in hanging onto the 29th minute winner which cannoned in off Gomes after Charlie Adam's header had hit the post.
Watford were poor and could have no complaints. Stoke lost to Bournemouth last time out but there was no danger of history repeating itself here, even through they were hampered by injuries and suspensions. They set the tone early on when Bruno Martins Indi brought an early save out of Gomes.
Mark Hughes was without the likes Joe Allen and Glenn Whelan from midfield. But the absence of Ryan Shawcross through a calf strain was the biggest blow of the lot.
The captain's organisational skills would be missed and no more so than when Stoke's defence were pulled out of position after Erik Pieters dallied on a loose ball.
Watford were unable to capitalise as Daryl Janmaat opted to shoot rather than find a team-mate and Lee Grant, the Stoke goalkeeper, gathered.
Among the changes to Stoke, five in all, saw forgotten £18.3million midfielder Giannelli Ambulla come in from the cold for his first league game in two-and-a-half months.
The Frenchman wouldn't have come closer to a breakthrough as his 30-yard strike beat Gomes but went inches of wide of the right-hand post.
Stoke were bossing proceedings and it was no surprise to see them take a 29th minute lead, albeit in fortunate circumstances.
Watford have conceded the most headers from crosses in the top-flight this season and poor marking once again saw Adam head Xherdan Shaqiri's corner against the foot of the post before the ball bounced out and in off Gomes.
Replays suggested Adam had given Valon Behrami a nudge in the back but it was the least Stoke deserved.
Watford, who offered little attacking threat, knew they to improve after a lacklustre first-half.
The sight of Christian Kabalese, minus his shin pads, shirt and boots, taking over three minutes to enter the pitch and replace the injured Younes Kaboul after 20 minutes summed up their sluggish attitude.
But they were fortunate it did not get worse after the break. Marko Arnautovic broke clear but his pass across the box never had the weight to find the lurking Jonathan Walters and the chance went begging.
Watford were finding themselves increasingly frustrated with referee Bobby Madley the subject of their groans.
Yet it was their team who were off colour. Walter Mazzarri sent for Odion Ighalo, who has seen his form tail off dramatically this year, in a bid to inject some life into an attack that had barely troubled Grant.
The excellent Adam and Imbula were dominating all facets of the game, breaking up attacks and setting the likes of Arnautovic and Shaqiri on their way with Stoke's counter-attacking approach.
Troy Deeney, who had been suck on 99 Watford goals since October 1, barely had a look-in like the rest of his team-mates. The home side were finally presented with a sight on goal but Janmaat could only slide wide after latching onto a weak headed clearance from Martins Indi.
Stoke had suffocated Watford who continued to make basic mistakes that stopped the side from building up momentum.
For all their control of the game, Stoke were sitting deeper and deeper and inviting crosses. Stefano Okaka, the Watford substitute, did find some space but could only cushion his 83rd minute volley into the side-netting while Deeney's header was way off target as Mazzarri's side ran out of ideas.
Miguel Britos' needless tug back on Shaqiri saw him earn a second booking in the dying moments. It summed up their afternoon as they slipped to a first home loss since August.
Watford: Gomes, Prodl, Britos, Kaboul (Kabasele 21); Janmaat, Capoue, Behrami, Holebas (Ighalo 56); Amrabat (Okaka 78), Pereyra, Deeney.
Booked: Amrabat, Holebas. Sent off: Britos
Stoke: Grant, Johnson, Martins Indie, Muniesa, Pieters, Adam, Imbula; Diouf, Shaqiri, Arnautovic (Crouch 82); Walters
Referee: Bobby MadleyReuse content