Ben Chilwell and Craig Dawson traded excellent stoppage-time goals as a largely tepid lunchtime Premier League encounter exploded into late life at an empty Vicarage Road.
England full-back Chilwell looked to have taken the points for Leicester when he crashed an unstoppable effort past Ben Foster and in off the far post for just his fourth career goal.
But there was still time for Dawson to hook home an improbable scissor kick in the third minute of added time to edge Watford a point above the relegation zone.
The Hornets have rebuilt their season on a base of strong home form under Nigel Pearson and were again impressive in spells, despite the absence of fans.
Foxes goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel made two fine saves to deny Abdoulaye Doucoure and then Ismaila Sarr as the home side threatened.
Brendan Rodgers’ side saw plenty of the ball but struggled to pose any threat at all until late on, when Marc Albrighton rattled the post and Foster had to make a low stop from James Maddison.
The two late, late goals mean that Leicester stay third, while Watford could yet end the day back in the bottom three depending on results elsewhere.
Dawson digs out a point
The Hornets delivered the on-pitch shock of the season when they thumped Liverpool 3-0 in their last home game way back in February.
In fact, three of Watford’s six league wins have been at home against sides in the top seven.
So it was perhaps no surprise that – after a minute’s silence for the NHS and coronavirus victims and all 22 players and officials then taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement – the hosts had the better chances, with both Doucoure and Sarr missing great opportunities to open the scoring.
Schmeichel excelled on both occasions but could no nothing about Dawson’s strike which preserved a valuable point.
The Hornets were led by captain Troy Deeney, who was late back to training after deciding he did not want to put his child, who has had breathing difficulties, “in more danger” from coronavirus.
Deeney looked as sharp as anyone and went close with a header at 0-0 before the late flurry of excitement.
Defeat would have been harsh on the Hornets, who, with home games against Southampton, Norwich and Newcastle still to come, look set to fight for survival all the way.
Vardy’s wait goes on
Leicester looked typically slick and tidy and controlled much of the game’s possession without getting Jamie Vardy into the game too often.
The striker, who only made his top-flight debut at the age of 27, is remarkably just a goal away from reaching the landmark of 100 in the Premier League but his only sight of the net was a powerful shot driven wide on the spin.
The introduction of Demarai Gray helped Leicester raise the tempo, and they finally tested Foster through Maddison’s low shot seconds after Albrighton had thumped the post.
Chilwell then broke the deadlock with his superb goal but the visitors could not hold on.
A return to the Champions League looks likely for Rodgers’ side, who now have an eight-point cushion to fifth-placed Manchester United.
Manchester City’s two-year ban from European competition – appeal pending – means fifth place will be enough for a Champions League spot.
Man of the match – Ben Chilwell
Expect the unexpected late drama – the stats
- Six of the past seven meetings between these two sides in the Premier League have seen a goal or a red card in the 90th minute or later (six goals, one red card).
- Watford have won just one of their past eight top-flight games (D3 L4), after winning four of the five before that (D1).
- Leicester have enjoyed just four wins in their past 14 Premier League games (D4 L6), after winning 12 of the 14 before that (L2).
- Brendan Rodgers is the fourth manager from either Northern Ireland or the Republic to hit the 200-game mark in the Premier League (also Joe Kinnear, David O’Leary and Martin O’Neill).
- Leicester full-back Ben Chilwell has scored two goals in his past five Premier League appearances, as many as in his previous 91 in the competition.
- Craig Dawson’s goal was his first in the Premier League in 31 appearances (since February 2018) and his first ever in the competition for Watford (21 games).
Watford travel to Burnley for an 18:00 BST kick-off on Thursday 25 June, while Leicester are at home to Brighton at the same time on Tuesday 23 June.