West Ham's push for a top four finish received a timely boost as Jarrod Bowen's seventh goal of the season earned a narrow 1-0 win over Watford at London Stadium.
The Hammers had chances to break the deadlock in the first half through Tomas Soucek and Said Benrahma, but were unable to break down a visiting defence stoically set up by the evergreen Roy Hodgson.
Watford were more than a match for West Ham in a game littered with mistakes, but the home side eventually found their winner with just over 20 minutes to go when Bowen's effort was deflected past the stranded Ben Foster.
The headlines ahead of the game had been dominated by the anticipated of absence Kurt Zouma, who was captured in a sickening video physically abusing his cat, but he was a surprise starter in east London despite an ongoing investigation into his behaviour.
Instead, the build-up should of, and eventually did, focus on Isla Caton, an inspiring seven-year-old girl and supporter of West Ham who recently lost a long battle with cancer. A minute's applause was held in her honour and players wore pink armbands in tribute.
The game itself lacked any real rhythm and fluency in the first 45 minutes as Hodgson's organised Watford ensured there was little room for West Ham to show their attacking flair.
The Hornets even had the first chance of the game after an uncharacteristic error from Declan Rice, and should really have taken the lead after terrific work on the counter from the lively Hassane Kamara. However, Juraj Kucka couldn't convert his pinpoint cross despite peeling off Aaron Cresswell at the back post.
Watford had the better of a low quality first half, although West Ham will feel they should have taken the lead before the break. First, Soucek headed over an in-swinging corner from six yards out, before Benrahma was denied at close range by a superb stop from Foster - the Algerian's follow-up smashing off the post before being cleared to safety.
The introduction of Manuel Lanzini for Benrahma proved to be the turning point for West Ham, with David Moyes' side eventually getting themselves going.
It was the Argentine who would provide the assist for Bowen's goal, slotting a slide rule pass through the heart of Watford's midfield for the 25-year-old to turn on, but there was a huge stroke of luck with the finish as Samir deflected Bowen's effort past the wrong-footed Foster.
Tom Cleverley stung the palms of Lukasz Fabianski with a terrific long-range effort soon after, before Bowen fired against the woodwork late on via a terrific fingertip save from Foster.
Here's how both sets of players rated on the night.
West Ham player ratings
1. Goalkeeper & defenders
Lukasz Fabianski (GK) - 6/10 - Maintained concentration levels despite having very little to do, highlighted by a fine save from Cleverley.
Vladimir Coufal (RB) - 6/10 - Charged up and down the right like he always does but that did allow Watford in-behind a couple of times. Booked.
Craig Dawson (CB) - 7/10 - Seemed to relish coming up against his former club, winning seven of his 11 duels.
Kurt Zouma (CB) - 6/10 - A frankly flabbergasting decision to start Zouma given what he's done. Performance was pretty solid although Watford didn't offer a sustained threat.
Aaron Cresswell (LB) - 7/10 - Put a number of dangerous crosses into the penalty area and got better as the game wore on.
Tomas Soucek (CM) - 7/10 - Should have at least troubled Ben Foster with his first half header. Wayward passing at times but always a threat aerially.
Declan Rice (CM) - 6/10 - Not Rice's most effervescent midfield display, highlighted by a rare first half error. Still, neat and tidy in possession.
Pablo Fornals (AM) - 6/10 - Looked to drift between the lines but often found himself shut out. Has the potential to deliver so much more against lower calibre opposition.
Jarrod Bowen (RF) - 8/10 - Created a wonderful chance for Benrahma in the first half before bagging his seventh Premier League goal of the season in the second. Intelligent with his movement throughout.
Michail Antonio (ST) - 6/10 - Found it hard to really get into the game and looked leggy after his international exploits with Jamaica.
Said Benrahma (LF) - 6/10 - Not able to get on the ball and run at Watford's defence because of how compact their setup was. Could have been cuter and more composed with his finish when played in by Bowen.
Manuel Lanzini (60') - 7/10 - Provided the spark for West Ham to get motoring and contributed the assist for Bowen's goal. Quality option off the bench.
Watford player ratings
5. Goalkeeper & defenders
Ben Foster (GK) - 7/10 - 38 years old? You wouldn't know it judging by Foster's reflexes and speed off his line.
Kiko Femenia (RB) - 6/10 - Bright early on as he looked to get behind the advancing Aaron Cresswell but faded as Watford struggled to get hold of the ball.
Craig Cathcart (CB) - 6/10 - Keeping Michail Antonio quiet isn't easy but that's exactly what Cathcart helped Watford achieve.
Samir (CB) - 6/10 - Unlucky to deflect Bowen's strike on goal past Foster. Solid throughout.
Hassane Kamara (LB) - 7/10 - Particularly lively in the first 25 minutes, putting a pinpoint cross on a plate for Kucka who somehow headed wide. A real threat on the counter.
Juraj Kucka (RM) - 6/10 - Enjoys getting stuck in and putting in a real shift defensively, but it was his attacking prowess that was sorely lacking. Should have buried his header.
Moussa Sissoko (CM) - 6/10 - Retained possession well throughout and provided a strong second line of defence.
Edo Kayembe (CM) - 6/10 - Gave the ball away more often than Roy Hodgson would have liked but combative and competitive in midfield.
Tom Cleverley (LM) - 5/10 - Fired a terrific effort on Fabianski's goal after Bowen's goal but was sloppy with his passing.
Josh King (ST) - 6/10 - Always looking to sprint in behind and hit West Ham on the break, though he didn't ever get a clear sight of goal.
Emmanuel Dennis (ST) - 6/10 - Dropped deep to good effect in the first half, sparking several dangerous counter attacks. Good player.
Joao Pedro (77') - 5/10 - N/A
Imran Louza (77') - 5/10 - N/A
Jeremy Ngakia (77') - 5/10 - N/A