Troy Deeney salvages point for Watford as Quique Sanchez Flores bows out
Watford twice came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw at home to Sunderland as Quique Sanchez Flores oversaw his final game in charge at Vicarage Road.
The Black Cats looked on course to celebrate achieving Barclays Premier League survival with a final-day victory as Jack Rodwell and then Jeremain Lens put them in front.
But both times Watford hit back, Sebastian Prodl heading home and Troy Deeney converting a second-half penalty to ensure the Hornets took a point, with honorary life president Elton John watching from the stands.
Sunderland may well feel aggrieved after the impressive Duncan Watmore and Dame N'Doye both had goals ruled out.
It means Watford end the season 13th in the table while Sunderland finish 17th, just outside the relegation places.
Flores on Friday confirmed he will leave at the end of the campaign and while there was a smattering of appreciative banners in the crowd, there was no obvious distress regarding the Spaniard's departure.
Watford have avoided relegation for the first time in the Premier League era, and reached an FA Cup semi-final, but this was their eighth point from the last 30 available and performances have not suggested a turnaround is near.
Print deadlines may have played a part but in his two-page piece for the matchday programme, it was notable that captain Troy Deeney failed to mention Flores' name once.
The Hornets, however, need only look in the opposition dug-out for a note of caution. Sam Allardyce was sacked by Newcastle in 2008 with the club 11th in the table and the Magpies have endured two relegations since, the latest sealed by Sunderland's win over Everton on Wednesday.
The visiting supporters spent most of the first half celebrating their rivals demise as fancy dress, inflatable animals and a impressive repertoire of anti-Newcastle chants contributed to a party atmosphere in the away end.
Allardyce was even invited to repeat his safety-sealing dance by the travelling fans, although this time he opted to stay seated.
On the pitch the first half was a largely drab affair until the 39th minute when Sunderland, with nine changes to their starting line-up, took the lead.
Debutant Rees Greenwood did well to recycle the ball wide to Lens and as his driven cross evaded the entire Watford defence, Rodwell was on hand at the back post to slam home his first league goal of the season.
Watford may have felt unfortunate to be behind but two minutes later, they were lucky not to concede another as Watmore's goal was ruled out for offside, with replays suggesting he was level.
The Hornets capitalised at the start of the second half and with another touch of good fortune as Prodl headed in Adlene Guedioura's corner, but only after he had given John O'Shea a push in the back to make space.
Parity lasted just three minutes, however, as Sunderland countered, Watmore sliding in Lens on the right who left Nathan Ake for dead with a dummy-shot, before driving under Heurelho Gomes to put his team back in front.
Sunderland could have been two clear when N'Doye headed in Sebastian Larsson's free-kick, but the goal was ruled out when again he appeared onside, and moments later Watford again took advantage.
O'Shea brought Jose Manuel Jurado down with a high foot in the area and as referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot, Deeney converted the penalty to leave the contest in the balance.
Both sides pushed forward in search of a winner at the end but there was to be no late drama as each had to settle for a point.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Sunderland, way to do it Congratulations" Former Sunderland loanee Nicklas Bendtner (@bendtnerb52) is impressed with Sunderland's last-season run.
Heurelho Gomes: 6
Miguel Britos: 6
Sebastian Prodl: 7
Jose Manuel Jurado: 6
Troy Deeney: 7
Craig Cathcart: 6
Nathan Ake: 6
Adlene Guedioura: 6
Almen Abdi: 6
Ben Watson: 6
Odion Ighalo: 6
Nordin Amrabat (on for Jurado, 80): 5
Juan Carlos Paredes (on for Cathcart, 45): 6
Mario Suarez (on for Abdi, 66): 6
Jordan Pickford: 6
Sebastian Larsson: 7
Jack Rodwell: 7
Dame N'Doye: 7
John O'Shea: 6
Jeremain Lens: 7
Lamine Kone: 6
DeAndre Yedlin: 6
Tom Robson: 6
Rees Greenwood: 7
Duncan Watmore: 8
George Honeyman (on for Greenwood, 52): 6
Yann M'Vila (on for Larsson, 62): 6
Billy Jones (on for Yedlin, 76): 5
Duncan Watmore: The 22-year-old was at the heart of everything Sunderland did going forward and was unfortunate to see his first-half goal ruled out for offside.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Troy Deeney's penalty: Deeney has been an integral part of Watford's survival this season and the Hornets captain had the final say here, converting a second-half penalty to earn his team a draw. "Deeney for England", chanted the home fans.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Quique Sanchez Flores was overseeing his final game in charge at Vicarage Road and after the match he did a lap of honour with his family in front of the Watford support. The Spaniard can feel proud of keeping his team in the top flight so comfortably but has paid for a miserable second half to the season. Sam Allardyce made nine changes, having secured safety in midweek, but he will have been impressed with some of his youngsters, who gave room for optimism ahead of next season.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Watford showed guts and determination to draw level after twice going behind. If they had displayed similar battling qualities over the last few months, Flores may have kept his job.