Josh King came back to haunt his former club with a hat-trick as Everton's second-half capitulation gave Claudio Ranieri's Watford a stunning 5-2 comeback victory.
Just a week after conceding five against Liverpool, Ranieri's side this time hit five, including four in 14 minutes in a second-half flurry, helped by former Toffee King, scoring his first goals in 29 league appearances across three clubs having not made a single start in his 11 games at Everton last season.
Tom Davies put Everton ahead early on from close range after fine work from Demarai Gray (3), but Watford levelled through King's far-post finish, awarded after a VAR intervention (13).
Just under three minutes after coming on, Richarlison edged Everton ahead, stooping low to head Michael Keane's cross home (63) against his former club, but Watford turned the game on its head with two goals in 88 seconds.
First, Juraj Kucka headed past Jordan Pickford unmarked from a Cucho Hernandez corner (78), before King finished calmly from a blistering Watford break (80). King, who said after the game he "wanted to prove a point" after "not being given a chance" at Goodison Park last term, was gifted a hat-trick from some woeful Everton defending (86), and Emmanuel Dennis rounded off the win in stoppage time (90+1).
Everton are eighth having hit the buffers with two straight defeats, while Watford are up to 14th after just their third win of the season.
- King: I didn't get a chance at Everton | Rafa can't explain loss
- How the teams lined up | Match stats
- Premier League fixtures | Table
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Everton: Pickford (6), Coleman (5), Keane (5), Godfrey (4), Digne (5), Townsend (5), Allan (5), Davies (6), Gordon (6), Gray (6), Rondon (4)
Subs: Richarlison (6), Iwobi (NA)
Watford: Foster (6), Ngakia (6), Ekong (6), Cathcart (7), Masina (7), Sissoko (7), Tufan (6), Kucka (7), Hernandez (6), Sarr (7), King (9)
Subs: Dennis (8), Pedro (7), N'Koulou (6)
Man of the match: Josh King
How Watford feasted on Everton capitulation
After a tough welcome back to the Premier League in the 5-0 defeat by Liverpool last week, Watford hoped the new manager bounce was delayed rather than destroyed, but Ranieri's side got off to the worst possible start.
Having troubled William Troost-Ekong on the left flank, Everton's summer signing Gray got to the byline before squaring for Davies, who nipped in to convert at close range, his first goal since December 2019.
But Watford didn't cave, and got an equaliser 10 minutes later through King, his first league goal since July 2020. Adam Masina's dangerous free-kick from the right ricocheted off Craig Cathcart and Ben Godfrey, before being turned home at the far post by King. A late offside flag went up, but VAR intervened and correctly awarded the goal, with Seamus Coleman playing King onside.
Neither side had much of a grip on the remainder of the first 45 minutes, though Davies did continue to get forward and missed a decent chance with a header from Allan's ball, while Troost-Ekong did well to block Anthony Gordon's volley in the box.
King should have had his and Watford's second after the break, found by Ismaila Sarr free in the box with just Jordan Pickford to beat, but his low effort from eight yards was brilliantly saved by the Everton goalkeeper.
Richarlison was introduced on the hour mark, and though Everton fans were unhappy that it was the impressive Anthony Gordon making way, they were celebrating just minutes later. Stooping low in the box as Watford failed to push out from defence, Richarlison got in front of Ben Foster and headed it into the net from Keane's excellent delivery.
But Everton retreated too early as Watford showed character again, equalising through Kucka's free header from a Cucho corner, though the hosts only had themselves to blame for some woeful marking.
And then just 88 seconds later it was 3-2, as Everton pushed forward looking to regain the lead, they left themselves short at the back, meaning Dennis could square for King as Watford broke. King composed himself with a touch, and calmly slotted past Pickford as he rushed out.
In truth, Watford could have scored another four goals from this point; Godfrey failed to properly clear as Dennis' volley was brilliantly tipped away by Pickford, and from the resulting corner Kucka was again unmarked, this time heading over the bar.
King, who made 11 goalless appearances for Everton last season all as a sub, got his hat-trick gifted on a plate as again Godfrey made a hash of his clearance, the ball falling to the Norwegian striker from Joao Pedro's deflected shot. King again showed brilliant poise, slotting past Pickford.
Everton made two changes from the defeat against West Ham last Sunday as the injured Doucoure was replaced by Davies, while Gordon comes in for Iwobi, who dropped to the bench.
Watford made three changes from the 5-0 defeat by Liverpool as Dennis, Femenia and Rose dropped out, replaced by Ngakia, Tufan and King.
Boos were ringing around an emptying Goodison Park at Everton's capitulation, and those who left will be thankful they didn't have to witness Watford's fifth, as sub Dennis was found on the break, turned easily past Coleman as the defender committed, then rolled into the net.
Watford were in dreamland, but this was as much an impressive comeback as it was a hideous surrender from Rafa Benitez's side, who have now lost nine home Premier League games in 2021.
King: I didn't get a chance at Everton
Josh King speaking to Sky Sports:
"I didn't get given a chance [at Everton], but I did wake up today and had a feeling. I was here but I didn't feel like I got given a chance.
"That's football - but I feel like every time someone doubts you, or doesn't believe in you, you want to prove a point. I felt I had a point to prove. I know it's not personal, but I woke up and said to myself I have to be on my A game today. I didn't expect a hat-trick, but I'll take it!"
What the managers said...
Everton boss Rafa Benitez to Sky Sports: "It's difficult to explain. We were winning 2-1 and in a few minutes we concede so many goals, it's complicated for me to understand.
"We were making mistake after mistake, giving them belief, and hope, and chances. They took them. When you are winning you need to know how to manage and we didn't know who to do it.
"You are winning 2-1, after great effort, and the team was fine, the fans were behind the team, but we make so many mistakes and we lost the confidence and everything.
"You try to make sure you are ready for the next one but I cannot forget the things we didn't do right today. I understand the frustration of the fans, and it's important for us to realise the next game we have to be stronger mentally, and to show more character, and to show more personality. Today we did it for a while, but after in a few minutes we didn't show that."
Watford boss Claudio Ranieri to Sky Sports: "It was a crazy game because we conceded lots of chances, but also Everton conceded great chances to us. I am very satisfied because after the Liverpool defeat we wanted to react, and today we reacted very well.
"I ask my players never to give up, to continue to play our football. We have to defend better than today."
On Josh King: "I don't know why [he wasn't given starts at Everton]. For me and for my team he is a great, great striker. Not only because he scored a hat-trick today, but the way he held the ball and kept the ball, linking with the midfielders, it was amazing. An amazing match."
Analysis: Ranieri was brave
Kris Boyd on Soccer Saturday
"You've got to say Claudio Ranieri was brave. Even at 1-1 they had Emmanuel Dennis and Joao Pedro stripped to come on, he wanted to try and win the game.
"It's an unbelievable turnaround. Watford were unbelievable - they had 20 shots on goal. They created opportunities, and Josh King today was brilliant. Everton fans will be spewing and thinking: 'Where was this Josh King?' - he could have scored even more. You can see he is composed in front of goal.
"But you've got to say, when you look at Everton now, they had a good start to the season, there were a lot of boos around the stadium.
"Watford were excellent - they've got a threat on the counter-attack and they were ruthless in front of goal - but Everton's luck might be running out."
Opta stats: Hornets buzzing, Everton crumble
- Everton suffered their first home defeat against Watford in any competition, having been unbeaten in 15 home matches against the Hornets prior to today.
- Watford scored five goals in an away Premier League game for just a second time (also vs Cardiff in February 2019), becoming just the seventh newly promoted side in Premier League history to score 5+ goals in an away game.
- Watford came from behind to win an away Premier League game for the first time since January 2019 vs Crystal Palace, having lost each of their previous 21 such matches in the competition before today.
Everton now go to Wolves on Monday Night Football on November 1, live on Sky Sports Premier League at 8pm, while Watford host Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday October 30 at 3pm.