Chris Mepham’s last-gasp goal ensured Bournemouth maintained their unbeaten Championship record at fellow high-flyers Watford.
Stipe Perica’s first goal in English football looked set to earn the hosts a third consecutive win thanks to a resilient defensive display, but they still move up to second and two points from top.
Both teams have made encouraging starts to life back in the second tier and appear to have allayed fears of a relegation hangover, sitting in third and fourth respectively before this game.
Chris Mepham’s last-gasp goal saw him come to the rescue of Bournemouth away to Watford
Bournemouth are now unbeaten in seven league games with three victories, while Watford’s only loss was a 1-0 reverse at table-topping Reading.
Cherries boss Jason Tindall insisted his side were good value for their point. He said: ‘I felt we deserved it, I felt if we got nothing from today’s game that would have been very harsh because I felt we controlled pretty much the majority of the game.
‘We created some good moments and thankfully for us the goal came. We were the dominant side in the second half.’
He admitted, however, that Lloyd Kelly could have seen red for a nasty foul on Ismaila Sarr after just two minutes, adding: ‘I’ve got to be honest, on another day it could have been a red card but all I do know is Lloyd is not that sort of character, not that type of player where he will go in with any malice.’
The opening period was marked by a series of strong challenges from both sides amid chilly conditions in Hertfordshire.
The opener came with barely 10 minutes played, Craig Cathcart finding the dangerous Sarr with a pinpoint ball from the back and the winger sent in a lovely low centre for Perica to slide home.
Bournemouth responded well to going behind, pinning the hosts back and forcing a succession of corners without truly threatening Ben Foster’s goal.
There were glimpses of some flowing football from Tindall’s men but they lacked a killer touch with Dominic Solanke firing their best chance straight at Foster after a smart turn.
Watford started the second period strongly as Asmir Begovic did well to block Sarr’s shot after a fine through-ball from Etienne Capoue, before the Senegalese was denied a penalty following a clash with Kelly inside the box.
However, the hosts then required a flying save by Foster from Solanke’s effort to keep the scores level. The one-cap England striker also had another strike deflected behind for a corner but the Cherries found their attacking efforts increasingly stilted.
Substitute Domingos Quina then summoned up a moment of magic, skipping away from Lewis Cook in midfield before his swerving shot almost deceived Begovic, but the stopper managed to fend it away.
The Portuguese youngster came close with another vicious strike as Begovic desperately clawed it to safety again.
Deep into the seven minutes of injury time, Foster palmed over a looping King header. From the resulting corner Mepham deflected in Kelly’s goalbound shot to maintain Bournemouth’s unbeaten league record and ensure the home side have failed to win in the last 11 meetings between these two sides.
Watford boss Vladimir Ivic was left incensed by the timing of the final whistle, believing his team should have been allowed to complete a final counter-attack. He said: ‘I wanted to ask the referee if it is exactly seven minutes because he didn’t allow us to counter attack two-on-two. Something isn’t right for me. If he finishes it exactly on seven minutes I apologise, but I don’t think it is.
Ivic also admitted his side must defend set-pieces better after the late concession, adding: ‘We know set pieces are part of the game and we need to be there for them.’
Reading 3-0 Rotherham
Yakou Meite scored twice as leaders Reading stretched their unbeaten run since the start of season to seven games.
Manager Veljko Paunovic said: ‘What we saw in our team was the consistency of getting the job done.
You have to be patient, have a strong mentality and not get frustrated if our game plan is not working.
The hosts’ top scorer Lucas Joao notched his seventh goal of the season from the spot to give the scoreline more gloss.
But Rotherham manager Paul Warne, who returned to the touchline after a twogame absence as he selfisolated at home, thought it was harsh. ‘I thought that we played really well, especially in the first half,’ he said.
Millwall 1-1 Barnsley
Barnsley came away with a creditable draw in what was caretaker manager Adam Murray’s final game in charge.
The future of Murray following Valerian Ismael’s appointment as head coach remains to be seen but he was pleased with a battling display at The Den.
‘I thought, for us, it was a real good away performance,’ he said.
Both goals came at the end of an awful first half, with a stunning opener from Barnsley captain Alex Mowatt quickly cancelled out by Jake Cooper’s header.
The hosts had assistant Adam Barrett in charge, following manager Gary Rowett’s positive coronavirus test, and Barrett said: ‘Obviously, it’s not ideal.’
Norwich 2-1 Wycombe
Super sub Mario Vrancic was the last-gasp hero for Norwich for the second game running as they made it three straight league wins.
Boss Daniel Farke said: ‘We kept going and finally got the win that I think we deserved.
Super sub Mario Vrancic was the last-gasp hero for Norwich for the second game running
‘That’s football – sometimes you just have to find a way.’ Teemu Pukki opening the scoring for the hosts early on, before Wycombe levelled through Scott Kashket, and Vrancic scored with a stunning curling free-kick.
Norwich sub Adam Idah saw red late on, but Gareth Ainsworth’s visitors had little time to take advantage of it.
The manager said: ‘Little old Wycombe don’t seem to be getting the decisions.’
Stoke 3-2 Brentford
Goals from Steve Fletcher, James McLean and Tyrese Campbell proved enough as Michael O’Neill’s impressive Stoke held on to stun promotion favourites Brentford.
O’Neill said: ‘You’d taken any win before the game regardless of the scoreline but when you’re 3-0 up we made it a lot more difficult than was necessary.’
Brentford substitute Marcus Forss pulled a goal back with 20 minutes remaining and bagged a second in stoppage time in a frantic finish to proceedings.
Their frustrated boss Thomas Frank said: ‘On the day we lost to a better team overall.
‘We started very slow in the first half, played with no initiative, no tempo and too many touches.
‘We got into the game, but gave ourselves a mountain to climb.’
QPR 0-0 Birmingham
Birmingham manager Aitor Karanka insists he is not worried about his side’s failure to score in open play this season.
A goalless draw at QPR extended a frustrating run for both teams, but Karanka believes there are positive signs.
‘I am not concerned at all,’ he said. ‘The main thing for me is to have a committed team on the pitch.’
QPR manager Mark Warburton was encouraged by his team’s second-half display but felt they could have been more direct.
‘We didn’t move the ball with any real intensity,’ he said.