Watford moved to within a point of the Championship leaders after a narrow victory over Fulham at Vicarage Road.

Middlesbrough’s win over Millwall meant they overtook Derby, who lost against Brighton, into top slot.

Troy Deeney was the match winner early in the first half, thumping home after the visitors failed to clear the ball.

It was the home side’s 70th league goal of the season, making them the highest scoring team in all four professional divisions of English football.

The result will feel harsh for the visitors who contributed plenty to the match, but ultimately came away with nothing, meaning they drop to 20th in the table, eight points above the relegation zone.

The ninth minute provided the crucial moment, as Fulham’s defenders failed to react after goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli pushed the ball away, which fell to Deeney to thump strike into the roof of the net for his 15th goal of the campaign.

They could have extended their lead in the second half as Matej Vydra’s shot looped over Bettinelli but came back off the crossbar.

Fulham could have been reduced to 10 men when Jazz Richards retaliated to a Vydra challenge by getting to his feet and pushing the Watford striker over, but received only a yellow card from the referee.

Cauley Woodrow and Shaun Hutchinson headed corners over the target for Fulham, and Ross McCormack had an effort saved by Heurelho Gomes late on, as they searched in vain for the leveller.