Watford 1 - 0 Everton
Michael Keane had the best chance from Everton's point of view but headed wide of goal early in the second half
Everton's terrible run away from home continued at Vicarage Road as Troy Deeney's 79th-minute strike decided a dire encounter.
The Watford forward swivelled and hammered home his first goal from open play in almost a year after Jordan Pickford had kept the Blues at 0-0 with low saves from substitute Kiko Femenia and Daryl Janmaat.
Pickford himself popped up on the end of an injury time corner as Everton desperately tried to salvage a point but the visitors were ultimately condemned to their fourth straight defeat on their travels in all competitions.
Staying true to his pre-match assertion that he wanted to focus on a settled line-up going forward, Sam Allardyce made just two changes to the side that started against Crystal Palace a fortnight ago, replacing the injured Seamus Coleman and Eliaquim Mangala with Jonjoe Kenny and Ashley Williams.
And the combination of familiarity and the pep of a midweek break in Dubai translated initially into a positive start from his charges. With Tom Davies busy in midfield and Theo Walcott looking to attack down the right flank, the Blues carried much of the early threat.
A 10th-minute interception by the young midfielder sent Oumar Niasse galloping towards the byline but while his attempted cut-back deflected off a defender's boot, goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis had to be alert to bat the ball away to safety at his near post.
Gylfi Sigurdsson had a weak effort, one of only two on target all game from Everton, easily gathered but the Blues' early momentum ebbed away and the contest degenerated into a battle of attrition between two teams who largely cancelled each other out.
The Hornets had some threatening moments through former Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu but his best chance in the first half would come from a free kick just outside the ”D” that he fired into the defensive wall.
The second half was a slightly more open affair and it was Everton who should have broken the tedious deadlock when Michael Keane stayed forward following a set-piece to rise to meet Idrissa Gueye's lofted centre. The defender planted his header disappointingly wide, however.
Niasse's departure for Cenk Tosun shortly before the hour mark did little to alter things from Everton's perspective. The Turk had one attempted pass from the byline that deflected awkwardly to Sigurdsson who couldn't control it in order to get a shot away.
Aside from that, it was dreadfully anaemic fare from Allardyce's men and, apparently content to play for a point, the manager was preparing to introduce Morgan Schneiderlin when Watford made the breakthrough.
Pickford atoned for his own mistake after kicking a clearance into Deeney by palming Femenia's shot away and then repeating the feat with Janmaat's effort after the Hornets had reclaimed possession.
Watford remained on the attack, however, and when Femenia fed Stefano Okaka and his fellow sub centred low to Deeney, the striker did the rest with the an unstoppable shot from around 10 yards out.
Allardyce responded by throwing Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Yannick Bolasie on for the final 10 minutes but neither player was able to make any impact. Instead, it was Pickford who was forced to make another save as Okaka rolled Keane and drove a low effort that was parried away.
Pickford went forward for the final corner of the game and connected well with the delivery from the right but the ball bounced up off Calvert-Lewin while Tosun was unable to get enough purchase on a header from close range and the chance for a point went begging.
The defeat prolongs Everton's search for the points that will guarantee them safety from relegation while also depriving them of the opportunity to move level with next weekend's opponents Burnley in seventh place.
It also keeps the focus squarely on Allardyce's tenure following another flat display and away defeat, one that the manager blamed on a lack of finishing.