Aron Gunnarsson's injury time winner ensured City stay joint top of the npower Championship - and break a sixty-five year record in the process.
City had fallen behind in the twenty-eighth minute to Tommie Hoban's close range finish. It was against the run of play, no doubt, though the Bluebirds were struggling to find the killer touch in front of goal.
Into the second half and Malky Mackay's team continued to play all the football, aided by the dismissal of Daniel Pudil for dangerous foul play and then Nathaniel Chalobah for a second bookable offence. Parity was restored from the most reliable of sources on seventy-one minutes - Peter Whittingham converting a penalty kick after a handball inside the box.
And then early in second-half stoppage time, substitute Aron Gunnarsson was the man who ensured history would be made. Craig Noone's excellent cross was met by the free roaming Icelander, who powered home a header to secure the three points.
Cardiff City started the game attacking the Grange End and started in impressive fashion, immediately putting the Hornets under pressure and preventing them getting hold of any sustained possession. The first shot of the game fell to Peter Whittingham after five minutes, though he struck wide of Manuel Almunia's right post after receiving the ball off Craig Noone. Noone had jinked his way to the edge off the Watford penalty area before sliding the ball to Whittingham. City also had the first shot on target of the game. Whittingham this time taking a free kick quickly to Noone. His delivery into the box was collected by Tommy Smith, who's effort could only be fired straight at the Watford keeper.
In the 17th minute Watford had a good chance to go ahead. Alex Geijo found himself in space on the outside of the Cardiff area and sqaured a ball to top scorer Matej Vydra. His low shot forced a fine save out of City stopper Marshall. Cardiff immediately responded when they won a free kick on the left hand touchline. Marco Cassetti was booked for the offence. The free kick was swung in to the back post and met by the on rushing Ben Turner, whose effort was headed over the crossbar.
Cardiff increased the pressure yet again, playing a number off crosses into dangerous areas. There were calls for a second yellow for Watford defender Cassetti when he brought down Whittingham near the corner flag. The free kick was give, but no card. Once again the free kick found Ben Turner, who headed across goal but the lay off was easy dealt with by the Watford defence.
Against the run off play Watford forced a corner after Hudson had to head the out of harms way. The was whipped in dangerously and bobbled around the six yard box before Tommie Hogan poked home for the visiting Yellow army.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 0 – 1 WATFORD (HOGAN, 28 mins)
They say teams are most vulnerable just after they score and that was almost the case. Tommy Smith played an audacious chip over the Watford back line, and with both Bellamy and Cowie rushing towards the ball it fell to Cowie, his strike could only find the side netting. Tommy Smith was then again in the thick of it. He ghosted around Watford's Daniel Vydra, played a well struck ball into the area which was collected by a diving Almunia. \
all attacking threat was coming from the home side as they continued to look for an equaliser. Not for the first time Whittingham was fouled outside the box after a lunging tackle from Nathan Chalobah connected with Whittingham's ankle. Chalobah received a booking for the innocuous challenge. With Whittingham off the field the set play duties fell to Bellamy. His delivery ricocheted off Hudson's head, onto Don Cowie's head and wide of the Hornets' goal.
The last five minutes saw two Craig Bellamy chances. The first was after a wonderful ball from Tommy smith. The pass intersected the Watford line and found Bellamy with only the Keeper to beat. The linesman then held up his flag for a very tight offside call. The second chance Bellamy found himself with a tight angle on the right side of the penalty area and his shot fizzed across the goal mouth beating the keeper but also all of the Cardiff players in the box and it went safely out for a throw in. despite all the Cardiff pressure the half ended with a Watford corner. The Hornets' showed their danger on the break as they did for the goal. It forced a block from Hudson and went out for a corner. This time however the corner was not as costly and Cardiff dealt with it with no problems.
HALF TIME: CARDIFF CITY 0 – 1 WATFORD
SUBSTITUTION CARDIFF CITY: JOE MASON ON FOR CRAIG BELLAMY (45 mins)
Cardiff started the second half with the same domination of possession that they showed in the first. For their domination there was not much to show in terms of chances. The first ten minutes of the half went by with only a snap shot effort from Craig Noone as a notable moment. The were a number of breaks into the box from the likes of Noone and Smith but there was no end product.
With Cardiff pushing hard for an equaliser, a heavy touch from Cowie allowed Watford to break. The quick counter resulted in a corner and from that Watford got a chance. The ball once again pinaballed around the area, Fitz Hall turned and fired a shot which struck the top of the cross bar.
SUBSTITUTION WATFORD: IKECHI ANYA ON FOR MATEJ VYDRA ( 60 mins)
The 52nd minute saw a moment of high drama when Daniel Pudil was shown a straight card for an elbow to Craig Noone. This being the third red card shown to a Watford player this season. This incident spurred Cardiff to increase the tempo further and nearly resulted in an instant equalising goal. Once again a Hudson header met the head of a Cardiff player, this time Helguson headered wide. The Bluebirds kept pushing forward, and after a number of blocked shots a penalty was given as a Connolly drive was deemed to strike the defender's arm.
Peter Whittingham calmly steps up to take the spot kick and rifles it down the middle of the goal as Almunia dives to his left. The drama escalates even further in the 72nd minute when Nathaniel Chalobah is also sent off for the Hornets. Chalobah foolishly kicked the ball away right in front of the referee and is shown a second yellow card for his actions.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 1 – 1 WATFORD ( PETER WHITTINGHAM, 71 mins)
SUBSTITUTION WATFORD: ADAM THOMPSON ON FOR MARCO CASSETTI (71 mins)
SUBSTITUTION CARDIFF CITY: RUDY GESTEDE ON FOR BEN TURNER ( 73 mins)
A trademark Whittingham free kick after three quarters of the game nearly sees the Bluebirds take the lead but is tipped over the bar the increasingly busy Almunia.
SUBSTITUTION WATFORD: TROY DEENEY ON FOR ALEX GEIJO (74 mins)
Despite being down to nine men after eighty minutes of the game Watford came close to taking the lead. Marshall saves a strong shot on his near post.
SUBSTITUTION CARDIFF CITY: ARON GUNNARSSON ON FOR TOMMY SMITH (83 mins)
With Watford being two men light the pressure was really on the Bluebirds to capitalise. City were feeling the pressure and struggling to break down Watford who now had every man behind the ball.
The struggle ended in injury time as Craig Noone produced a brilliant cross to find sub Aron Gunnarsson who headed powerfully past Manuel Almunia. Cardiff nearly added a third as Watford threw everyone forward. Cardiff launched a ball clear and Craig Noone found himself on the halfway line with only the keeper to beat. The keeper came out and Noone slotted the ball agonisingly wide.
GOAL: CARDIFF CITY 2 – 1 WATFORD ( ARON GUNNARSSON, 90 mins)
FULL TIME: CARDIFF CITY 2 – 1 WATFORD