Watford missed the chance to move out of the Premier League relegation zone as Adrian Mariappa’s own goal gifted Brighton a draw at the Amex Stadium.
Abdoulaye Doucoure put the Hornets ahead from 18 yards out after he ran with the ball from the halfway line following Aaron Mooy’s misplaced pass.
Mooy had a shot saved by Ben Foster before Brighton’s bizarre equaliser.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s low cross from the right wing was lashed into his own net by Mariappa, under no pressure.
Brighton had a late chance to score a winner but Leandro Trossard lifted his shot over the crossbar from a tight angle on the corner of the six-yard box.
The draw keeps Watford 19th, on 24 points from 26 games, with the Hornets three points behind 15th-placed Brighton.
A number of Watford players, including goalkeeper Foster, went to console the experienced Mariappa after the game had finished, but they will know this was two points thrown away in their fight to avoid relegation.
The 78th-minute own goal came only a minute after Foster had produced a fine save with his legs to deny Mooy in what had been the first shot on target from either side in the second half.
There appeared to be no danger when Jahanbakhsh played a pass into the penalty area but Mariappa, wrongly thinking there was a player close behind him, panicked and sent his attempted clearance into his own net.
“The way the goal went in was very disappointing,” said Foster in an interview with BT Sport. “Maps [Mariappa] is not trying to score an own goal, but that’s football. It can go against you sometimes.
“The way we dropped back is a symptom of where we are in the league. We tried to defend what we had and thought we could weather the storm.
“Brighton threw it all at us but if it wasn’t for the own goal we would have won.”
For Watford it means they have now not won in five matches in all competitions after they had won four of their previous five Premier League matches before that.
Brighton are also on a poor run and have not gained a victory in seven attempts in 2020.
Both sides will now have their mid-season break and a two-week gap before their next matches. Brighton play at Sheffield United on Saturday, 22 February (15:00 GMT), while Watford’s next match comes a day later (14:00) when they face Manchester United at Old Trafford.
More to follow.