A goal after four minutes by Odion Ighalo gave Watford all three points as Sunderland paid the price for a miserable first half performance at the Stadium of Light.
Watford broke the deadlock inside four minutes after Nyom was allowed to get to the by line and his cutback was poked home at the near post by Ighalo.
Watford had a chance to make it two nil five minutes later after Ake’s cross found Abdi at the back post but Pantilimon was out fast to deny him from close range.
Watford undoubtedly should have doubled their lead on 12 minutes after a frantic goal mouth scramble. Ighalo forced a great save from Pantilimon after turning O’Shea inside out, his rebound was then cleared off the line by Coates before Jurado’s shot smashed against the post.
Sunderland’s first chance of the game fell to Borini on 17 minutes after he got the better of Britos down the right but his shot flashed across Gomes’s far post.
The game was far too open and it was Watford who were creating the better chances. Fletcher gave the ball away in midfield allowing Watford to break away and Capoue had Pantilimon scrambling across goal to parry away the Frenchman’s effort.
Sunderland started the second half well and had the first chance with Rodwell stinging the hands of Gomes on 52 minutes after linking up with Fletcher.
Fletcher and Rodwell both saw efforts fly over as Sunderland struggled to create any clear cut opportunities. The Black Cats finally got in behind Watford’s defence on 75 minutes but Defoe’s goal was ruled out for offside.
Watford could have put the game away on 80 minutes when Coates misjudged the bounce allowing Ighalo clean through on goal but Pantilimon stood up well to deny him.
Straight up the other end Van Aanholt played in Defoe who cut inside and forced Gomes into a wonder save to keep Watford in front.
Sunderland wasted another chance on 88 minutes when Johnson latched onto Watmore’s flick on but he volleyed wide at the back post.
Sunderland (3-5-2): Pantilimon, Yedlin (Rodwell 19’), O’Shea (c), Coates, Van Aanholt, Jones, M’Vila, Toivonen, Borini (Johnson 57’), Fletcher (Defoe 71’), Watmore.
Subs: Mannone, Matthews, Rodwell, Lens, Johnson, Graham, Defoe.
Watford (4-4-2): Gomes, Nyom, Cathcart, Britos, Ake, Capoue, Watson, Abdi (Guedioura 68’), Deeney, Jurado, Ighalo.
Subs: Arlauskis, Paredes, Guedioura, Berghuis, Anya, Diamanti, Oulare.
Goals: Ighalo (4’)