Watford made it three wins from four unbeaten matches and moved to within a point of safety with a 2-1 victory over Wolves.
The Hornets, resurgent under Nigel Pearson, played the last 20 minutes with 10 men after Christian Kabasele’s dismissal by VAR, but held on.
Kabasele’s yellow card for bringing down Diogo Jota as the Portugal forward raced towards goal was upgraded in the belief a clear goalscoring chance had been prevented by the foul.
Kabasele was incensed by the decision and could not have walked off more slowly.
— Watford Football Club (@WatfordFC) January 1, 2020
It was another blow to the Watford defender, who nine minutes earlier had deflected Pedro Neto’s shot into his own net to ensure a nervy finish as Wolves threatened a fightback.
Neto was an unpopular goalscorer at Vicarage Road after performing two acrobatic dives in the first half, but there was no denying the threat he posed down the left wing.
Goals in each half from Gerard Deulofeu and Abdoulaye Doucoure gave Watford a deserved victory and 10 points in four games over the festive period.
Wolves were back at full-strength after Raul Jimenez, Romain Saiss, Adama Traore and Matt Doherty were restored to the starting XI, but it failed to ignite them against a side undergoing a revival.
A pinpoint long ball found Doherty and he forced a sharp save from Ben Foster but the visitors should have taken the lead through Jimenez in the 16th minute.
Doherty found Jimenz with a floated defence-splitting pass and having done the hard work – chesting the ball down and creating space for his shot – the Mexican forward tamely pushed his effort wide.
Kiki Femenia threaded a dangerous ball across goal as Watford momentarily escaped the pressure and Craig Dawson apologised to Neto for catching him with his arm, inducing the Portuguese winger to yell and fall theatrically.
But referee Andrew Madley soon tired of Neto’s histrionics after seeing him dive in the area while looking for contact with Dawson and issued a yellow card.
When Watford took the lead on the half-hour it came against the run of play, even if it should have come slightly sooner as Ismaila Sarr directed a turn and shot from close range straight at Rui Patricio.
Pedro Neto scores on the hour mark but it's not enough for Wolves who fall to defeat at Vicarage Road. #WATWOL
— Wolves (@Wolves) January 1, 2020
There was no doubting Sarr’s ability to pick a pass shortly afterwards, however, as he deftly slid the ball to Deulofeu who curled it into the bottom-right corner beyond the reach of Patricio.
Deulofeu could have scored a second with a little more composure, but he skied Troy Deeney’s flick-on over the crossbar.
The misfiring Sarr manoeuvred himself into a one-on-one with Patricio but his shot was easy to save and Watford would have to wait until three minutes into the second half for their second goal.
Deulofeu waited to pick the right pass which materialised when Doucoure came racing onto the ball before blasting a deflected shot past Patricio.
Foster easily dealt with a weak attempt by Joao Moutinho but he was beaten by Neto who speculatively pulled the trigger and was rewarded when a huge deflection off Kabasele left the Watford goalkeeper stranded.
Kabasele’s afternoon deteriorated when he was sent off and Foster desperately scrambled a Jota header to safety.
Wolves laid siege to the home goal in the closing minutes but could not find an equaliser.