A stoppage-time goal from Daniel Ayala salvaged a point for Middlesbrough – and may have kept alive the chances of caretaker boss Mark Venus being handed the hot-seat.
On-loan Spanish defender Ayala headed home three minutes into injury time to rescue a 2-2 draw with Watford in a scrappy encounter.
Albert Adomah had put Boro ahead with a well-worked opener but Troy Deeney levelled before the break, then Fernando Forestieri punished a defensive blunder by Ayala to put Watford ahead in a dismal second half.
At that point lack-lustre and shapeless Boro looked to be drifting to a second successive defeat which would have surely been curtains for any hopes Venus had of being given the position permanently.
Yet in a frantic finale spirited Boro clawed to the draw to give Venus a full set from his three games in charge: an emphatic 4-0 home win over Doncaster, a narrow 1-0 defeat at Blackburn thanks to a wonder strike and then the last-gasp leveller and a plundered point.
Venus, promoted when Tony Mowbray was sacked three weeks ago after defeat at rock-bottom Barnsley, admitted for the first time he wanted the job.
He also revealed he was in the dark over chairman Steve Gibson’s intentions and timescale – although with a two-week international break coming up he conceded a decision could be looming.
He said: “Listen, I don’t know anything about the state of play with regards to the job,. Really, I don’t know.
“I think the chairman has been out of the country on business so we haven’t talked about the position.
“I don’t know if or when I’m going to find anything out but there is a two- week break coming up now and that may well be a time for the club to make their decision.
“As far as I’m concerned I’m in the job until someone tells me otherwise.
“But if you are asking me if I would like to do it for a while longer then yes, yes I would. If you are asking me if I want the job, then yes, yes I do.”
Venus was pleased Boro kept battling to the end and rescued the poin t- but disappointed at the manner of the goals they conceded.
For the opener a statuesque back four stood rooted as Deeney darted through unchallenged on to a simple ball over the top and for the second Ayala was robbed after he cut out a pass then hesitated and failed to clear.
Venus added: “The lads showed real character and spirit to keep going and get that equalising goal right at the end.
“We started off well and went a goal up and we deserved that, it was a great goal, and I thought we could have scored one or two more.
“The second half was a bit scrappy. It was going nowhere - then there was a costly defensive mistake that let them back into it.
“That was disappointing. We’ve talked about making mistakes before because whatever league you play in, whatever team you play for, if you make individual mistakes over the season you get punished with goals, but I was delighted for Daniel.
“He made the mistake but he made up for it when he got that goal. That shows strength of character and determination.”
Boro took the lead with a superb goal on 24 minutes
Marvin Emnes weaved past two men along the edge of the box then teed up Kie Kamara who slotted a ball through the defence and diagonally into the box to pick out the run of Rhys Williams, who deftly back-heeled for Albert Adomah to rifle inside the near post and claim his sixth in five games.
Watford levelled on 32 minutes as Marco Cassetti played a quick chip over a static Boro defence for Troy Deeney to nip through unchallenged and slam home.
Boro had chances to stretch their lead but a dipping Grant Leadbitter free-kick was fisted away, then an acrobatic effort by Kamara sent the keeper scrambling full-length to claw away at the foot of the far post.
Boro looked disjointed in the second half, lost a bit of zing up front and became ragged at the back.
After a few warning shots Watford took the lead on 73 minutes.
Deeney played a ball forward that Ayala initially cut out but then failed to clear leaving Forestieri to steal it away and skip into the box to slam in a low shot that Jason Steele got a hand too but couldn’t keep out.
Boro piled forward at the death and Kamara headed straight at the goalkeeper before they won a corner deep in stoppage and when Leadbitter dipped the ball towards the penalty spot Ayala put in a powerful downward header which bounced up and into the net.
MIDDLESBROUGH (442): Steele, Williams Hines (Friend 88), Ayala, Gibson. Smallwood, Leadbitter, Adomah, Carayol (Halliday 78), Emnes (Butterfield 78), Kamara (c) Subs (not used): Leutwiler, Whitehead, Jutkiewicz, Richardson
Booked: Gibson, Leadbitter. Goals: Adomah 23, Ayala 90.
WATFORD (352): Almunia; Cassetti, Angella, Doyley (Belkalem 46); Faraoni, Murray, Iriney (McEachran 68), McGugan (Battocchio 77), Pudil; Deeney, Forestieri. Subs (not used): Bond, Acuna, Fabbrini, Anya.
Booked: Murray, Faraoni, McGugan, Deeney.
Goals: Deeney 32, Forestieri 73. Attendance: 14,344