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Fulham have been relegated from the Premier League with five games still to play after being hammered by Watford at Vicarage Road.

The Cottagers needed to avoid defeat to put off their inevitable demotion for another week and were level at half-time, Ryan Babel having equalised after Abdoulaye Doucoure’s stunning opener for the Hornets.

However, second-half goals from Will Hughes, Troy Deeney and Kiko Femenia condemned them to an immediate return to the Championship.

Fulham spent more than £100m on 12 new players last summer but the quality has been lacking all season.

Their players looked dejected as the final whistle confirmed they will be playing Championship football alongside Huddersfield next season, making 2 April the earliest date two clubs have been relegated from the Premier League.

Fulham had, briefly, looked like delaying the drop, when Babel rounded Ben Foster to coolly equalise from Ryan Sessegnon’s clever pass 12 minutes before half-time.

Babel, Sessegnon and Aleksandar Mitrovic all had chances to put the Cottagers ahead in a dangerous spell after that but the break halted their momentum and they fell apart in the second half.

Parker will hope that they can restore pride in their final five games before another hard season in the Championship.

Second-half substitute Andre Gray has tormented Fulham in the past and once again he proved the difference, his bristling pace and direct running causing huge problems for the visitors’ fragile backline.

A mesmerising piece of skill from Gray set up Deeney for a tap in on 69 minutes before he slipped a pass to Femenia to round off the victory shortly afterwards.

Those goals put the gloss on two earlier strikes from Doucoure and Hughes, the latter a thunderbolt volley from the edge of the box that flew into the top of Sergio Rico’s net.

Watford have not lost at home since Boxing Day and, with six games to play, will have their sights set on finishing as best of the rest behind the runaway top six.