Danny Welbeck scored the winner with a spectacular overhead kick as Watford came from behind to beat Norwich and move four points clear of the Premier League relegation zone.
Norwich, who remain bottom of the table and are now 10 points behind the 17th-placed Hornets, will be relegated if they lose to West Ham on Saturday.
Emiliano Buendia’s curled effort gave Norwich an early lead before Craig Dawson equalised with a close-range header.
The home side won it through Welbeck’s wonderful goal, after the ball looped up following a poor clearance by Max Aarons.
Former Manchester United and Arsenal striker Welbeck, who has played for England 40 times, was making only his fifth start in the league for Watford since joining them on a free transfer in August after a hamstring injury in October kept him out for more than three months.
“It’s been frustrating for Danny because he came with a big reputation but was injured so early,” said Hornets manager Nigel Pearson. “He’s been patient and his desire to get back has been really big.
“When I’ve not played him he’s been disappointed but he has to trust us to look after him.”
Welbeck described the match-winning goal as a “very important one and one that means a lot to me and the whole club”.
He added: “We’ve got four games left and we will give it our all. I’ve done that [an overhead kick] a lot of times in training and it paid off – I kept my eye on the ball and it went into top bins so it was perfect.
“That was a great goal and I’m very pleased with that one.”
Norwich had a late chance to grab an equaliser, but 19-year-old Adam Idah shot wide from five yards out when sliding in at the back post.
Defensive errors again cost doomed Norwich
After their 1-0 home loss to Brighton on Saturday, Canaries boss Daniel Farke seemed resigned to relegation, saying that game had been their “last chance” and any talk of them staying up was “unrealistic”.
The German called for his side to show some pride and he will have been pleased with how they began at Vicarage Road.
Buendia, who had earlier seen a free-kick tipped over by Ben Foster, scored his first Premier League goal when he collected the ball from Onel Hernandez’s fine run, cut inside defender Adam Masina and curled the ball into the net from 15 yards out.
Norwich have received plaudits for their style of football since winning promotion from the Championship last season, and gained some impressive results, including wins over Manchester City, Leicester and Everton and draws with Arsenal and Tottenham.
But the key reason they look destined for an instant return to the second tier has been their poor defensive record. And true to form their lead only lasted six minutes before they conceded a soft equaliser.
Dawson lost his marker and was too strong for Alexander Tettey to head into the net from close range from Etienne Capoue’s delivery.
Farke will also be unhappy with Watford’s second, as Aarons should have done much better with his clearance before Welbeck’s overhead kick.
Norwich have now conceded more goals than any other team in the Premier League this season (63).
Pearson close to completing remarkable turnaround
While Norwich, who still have to play both Chelsea and Manchester City away from home, will be preparing for Championship football next season, Nigel Pearson’s Watford still have their fate in their own hands.
This victory takes them on to 31 points, four more than Aston Villa and Bournemouth, with the Hornets also having a better goal difference than those two sides.
They take on a Newcastle side in mid-table on Saturday, before an away match at another team looking to stay up, West Ham, on 17 July, before ending the season with games against Manchester City and Arsenal.
If Watford can survive in the top flight it will complete a remarkable turnaround under Pearson – their third manager of the season after Javi Gracia was sacked in September and Quique Sanchez Flores was dismissed in December.
When Pearson took over, Watford had only eight points from 14 games and were six points adrift of safety, but have now gained 23 points from 20 matches since Pearson’s appointment.
Man of the match – Danny Welbeck (Watford)
‘We’re going to do everything we can’ – what they said
Watford boss Nigel Pearson to Sky Sports: “I thought we showed a lot of character – not always composure – but the result was more important than the performance. I feel for Norwich because they played pretty well and we’ve had to fight very hard. Their ability to keep the ball made it difficult.
“We desperately needed three points and we got it. It’s only us who can keep us up, we’ve got to win enough points.
“Sometimes clubs are in a position like this is because there’s not enough care. I know that’s not the case here. We’re going to do everything we can to stay up.”
Norwich City boss Daniel Farke to BBC Sport: “We knew, we’re not naive, we’re in a difficult situation and it’s not likely we will stay in the league. I feel sorry for the lads, they left their hearts on the pitch. We won more or less all statistics but the one that matters is goals.
“I can’t accuse the players too much. If you always feel unlucky it’s not luck, it’s a bit of quality missing.
“We’re the underdog each game, even before the season started we were favourites for position 20. We have seven academy products, we’re the only self-funding club in this division so we can’t spend money.”
Welbeck’s first Premier League goal since August 2018 – the stats
- Watford registered only their second win in their last 12 Premier League matches (drew three, lost seven) and their first since beating champions Liverpool 3-0 in February.
- Norwich have lost six consecutive league matches for the first time since May 1995, when they lost seven in a row in the Premier League.
- Watford came from behind to win a Premier League game for the first time since January 2019 away at Crystal Palace
- Norwich City ended a run of seven hours and 53 minutes without a Premier League goal, with Emiliano Buendia’s strike after four minutes their first since February against Leicester City.
- Danny Welbeck scored his first Premier League goal since August 2018, when he scored for Arsenal against West Ham; it was his ninth attempt at goal for Watford in the Premier League this season.
- Norwich’s Emiliano Buendía scored his first Premier League goal with his 37th shot in the competition.
- Watford defender Craig Dawson has scored two goals in five Premier League appearances since the June restart – beforehand, he had not found the net in 20 league appearances for the Hornets this season.
- Norwich scored first and lost for a third time in the Premier League this season (also at home to Sheffield United and Wolves in December), while the Canaries remain the only side yet to recover a point from a losing position in Europe’s top five leagues this season.
Both sides have home matches starting at 12:30 BST on Saturday, 11 July, with Watford entertaining Newcastle and Norwich taking on West Ham.
Norwich then play Chelsea away on 14 July (20:15), before Watford play at West Ham on Friday, 17 July (20:00)