Yannick Bolasie’s first goal in a Boro shirt put a dent in Watford’s promotion hopes and lifted Neil Warnock’s side back to within six point of the play-off places.
The loan man struck with 15 minutes left on the clock to secure Boro a 1-1 draw against the Championship’s in-form team.
Watford arrived on the back of a run that had produced 10 wins from 11 games, including six on the spin prior to arriving at the Riverside, and knew that victory would give them clear daylight ahead of the chasing pack.
It was a second game in the space of 72 hours for both sides – Boro had suffered defeat at Boiurnemouth a few days earlier - and Warnock shuffled his pack with Djed Spence and George Saville bringing fresh legs into his starting XI.
With injuries already cutting deep into Warnock’s squad, the last thing Boro needed was another one adding to the casualty list when Sam Morsy was forced into leaving the field before the 30-minute mark after feeling the effects of a challenge from one-time Boro loan man Nathaniel Chalobah.
Moments later Watford were in front in the game. Marcus Bettinelli reacted well to make a good save before Phillip Zinkernagel followed-up to drill the ball back beyond the reach of the Boro keeper with the aid of a deflection off Ismaila Sarr.
It was a piece of good fortune for the visitors and one that sparked Boro into more life as the game headed towards the break. Boro had a series of corners and Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann was called upon to collect the ball from under his own bar after Paddy McNair, Neeskens Kebano, and Spence all combined well.
Boro had the ball in the net early in the second half - Friday’s goalscorer Duncan Watmore the man again – but the effort was ruled for offside. Hayden Coulson and Bola had combined well down the left before George Saville headed on to Watmore, who had strayed offside before applying the finishing touch.
Bachmann also took a clattering when Kebano delivered a great ball from the left and the Watford goalkeeper clashed with an onrushing Darnell Fisher in the race to get the ball.
But the visitors gave a timely reminder of why they are second in the table when some quick movement down the flank created a chance for Joao Pedro whose execution didn’t match the quality of the build-up. Pedro was also guilty of sending an effort just wide of the upright after more good build-up play by Watford.
But Boro are a tenacious lot and Warnock’s men were level with 12 minutes left on the clock. McNair delivered a peach of a free-kick into the box and Bolasie got down well to score with a superb glancing header which gave Bachmann no chance.