An equaliser from Watford substitute Rhys Healey six minutes into injury time sent rescued a 1-1 draw against promotion hopefuls Southampton at Vicarage Road.

Introduced just 90 seconds earlier, Healey struck with a firm shot from the edge of the penalty area to maintain the Hornets’ impressive form.

Until then, it seemed that a Che Adams goal would be enough for Southampton to keep pace with the three sides above them in the Championship table.

Instead, while the draw extended the unbeaten run of Russell Martin’s side to 12 games, it means that fourth-placed Southampton are now 10 points adrift of the automatic promotion places.

The opening 45 minutes largely entailed Southampton passing the ball around in triangles and Watford chasing shadows.

There was a brief flurry of excitement just before the half-hour mark when Ken Sema’s free-kick was beaten away by Saints keeper Gavin Bazunu and Yaser Asprilla then struck the visitors’ crossbar, but that was quickly quelled by an offside flag against the young Watford forward.

Sema’s next free-kick was curled invitingly in front of three onrushing Watford players but landed tantalisingly out of reach of all three.

The next opportunity fell to the visitors following a corner. After Jan Bednarek volleyed towards goal, Adam Armstrong attempted to lift the ball into the Watford net but scooped his shot just over the bar.

The clearest chance of the half fell to Sema, who sprinted through as Mileta Rajovic helped the ball into his path. Sema struck his shot fiercely but straight into the body of Bazunu as he raced out to cut down the angle.

The second half began in the same chess-like pattern until the game finally sprang to life in the 52nd minute with chances at either end.

First, Stuart Armstrong slipped the ball in front of Adams whose shot on the turn rolled just wide.

Watford went even closer at the other end as an Asprilla shot was beaten away for a corner by Bazunu.

Saints broke the deadlock in the 56th minute when half-time substitute Ryan Fraser turned his defender and crossed for Adams who shifted the ball to one side before firing a low shot beyond Watford keeper Ben Hamer.

The home side responded with an Edo Kayembe shot that was deflected just wide, but it was Southampton who went close again when Fraser was released by Adam Armstrong and drove in a stinging left-footed shot which was tipped over by Hamer.

That proved costly deep into injury-time when Healey steered home a fierce shot after fellow substitute Vakoun Bayo had headed down a hopeful Ryan Porteous punt forward.