Benik Afobe scoring Bournemouth's equalising goal against Watford at the Vitality Stadium
The Cherries are thankful that Afobe decided not to go to this month's Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and play for his country DR Congo as he secured the draw on 82 minutes.
Seven minutes after coming off the substitutes’ bench, Afobe's finish following a sweet turn denied Watford their first Premier League win in seven games.
Troy Deeney’s fifth goal of the season was the 11th time Bournemouth had conceded in four games and it looked to have secured Watford the points and once again highlight how the south-coast's defensive frailties could see them fall slip down the table.
For all their neat approach play, Bournemouth’s creaking defence is an increasing concern for boss Eddie Howe.
They were in control of this match until careless defending at a corner allowed Watford to take the lead against the run of play.
Troy Deeney scoring his fifth goal of the season for Watford
It began so promisingly for Bournemouth with Jack Wilshere at the source of their best moments.
The on-loan Arsenal midfielder’s chipped pass into the penalty area was met by a looping header by 5ft 4in Scot Ryan Fraser, the smallest player of the pitch, but Hornets goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes tipped the effort over.
Wilshere unlocked the Watford defence again moments later on 16 minutes but Callum Wilson lost control after a sweet turn in the penalty area.
Wilshere faded as a force later in the first half but not before he tested Gomes with a vicious left-foot shot from 25 yards. But the fierce strike was too close to Gomes, who able to beat it away.
The Cherries seemed on the brink of scoring when they conceded from Jose Holebas’ 24th minute corner. Cherries defender Steve Cook could only flick the corner on to the back post where Miguel Britos headed back for Christian Kabasele to nod in.
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Jack Wilshere was hugely influential in Bournemouth's draw at the Vitality Stadium
Maybe the aerial presence of suspended skipper Simon Francis would have made a difference and Bournemouth continued to look vulnerable at the back before the break.
Tyrone Mings’ headed clearance on 33 minutes went straight to new Watford signing Tom Cleverly, whose low shot fizzed just wide.
But Bournemouth drew level through a moment of individual brilliance by Adam Smith three minutes into the second half.
Smith took a short throw-in, received the ball back and after nutmegging Abdoulaye Doucoure sprinted into the box before crossing low into the six yard area where Joshua King tapped in.
But once again the hosts were betrayed by their defending at a corner. Clevery’s corner was met by Deeney’s thumping header after the Hornets forward rose above Smith at the near post.
Watford are not without their own problems at the back and on 82 minutes, with Kabasele lying injured on the deck, Afobe comfortably shrugged off Younes Kaboul and fired the south-coast club level.
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Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe
He said: “Overall I thought we were unfortunate. I thought we defended well in open play. Set plays we knew it would be a strength of theirs and many of the manner of the two set plays we conceded was disappointing.
“But we have to look to the positives and the character they showed by coming back twice.
Howe on Wilshere
“Jack Wilshere did very well today. He improves with every game. His technical ability, his dribbling and his ability to take the ball in high areas is a real plus.”
Watford manager Walter Mazzarri
Mazzarri on Kabasele
He said: “Kabasele is a young player, he didn’t think about it, he had cramp and he didn’t tell us before. We could have done better and I’m not particularly happy about that situation.
Mazzarri on draw
“It was two points lost. We deserved to win. We made two mistakes which allowed them to score the goal and we could have scored another goal in the second half.
“We’ve lost some points because of mistakes and also injuries which doesn’t allow us to have a full squad. We were unlucky against Middlesbrough and all of these things gets us here.”
Bournemouth: Boruc 6; Daniels 7, Cook 6, Smith 6, Mings 6; Fraser 7 (Pugh, 80), King 6 (Ibe, 75 (6)), Stanislas 7 (Afobe, 75 (6)), Surman 7, Wilshere 8; Wilson 6. Subs not used: Federici, Smith, Gosling, Arter.
Watford: Gomes 7; Kaboul 6, Prödl 6, Britos 7; Kabasele 6 (Cathcart (84)), Cleverley 7, Douîcouré 6 (Ighalo, 88), Capoue 6, Holebas 7; Deeney 7, Okaka 6 (Janmaat, 62 (6)). Subs not used: Pantilmon, Zuniga, Sinclair, Mason.
Referee: Lee Mason