Newcastle denied win after Salomon Rondon heroics at Vicarage Road
Newcastle United were denied a much-needed win by a late equaliser at Vicarage Road this afternoon.
A strike from Abdoulaye Doucoure claimed a point for Watford from a 1-1 draw after Salomon Rondon had given Newcastle a first-half lead.
The result has left the club in 15th place, and four points above the relegation zone, ahead of the January 2 home game against Manchester United.
Benitez had left out-of-form Kenedy out of his squad for the game.
United's manager recalled Salomon Rondon, Ayoze Perez and Christian Atsu to his starting XI at Vicarage Road, where the club has never won a top-flight game.
Benitez again fielded a back five, with Matt Ritchie and DeAndre Yedlin playing as wing-backs in a 5-4-1 formation.
Watford had the better start, and Newcastle's 3,000-strong travelling support had to be content with booing Daryl Janmaat, who left the club in the wake of relegation to the Championship two and a half years ago.
United had Martin Dubravka to thank for a save from Gerard Deulofeu in the 16th minute. Deulofeu beat the offside trap, but Dubravka denied him with his legs.
Newcastle, having absorbed Watford's early pressure, started to threaten more on the break as the half wore on, and they got their breakthrough in the 29th minute.
Atsu switched play to Ritchie on the left, and the winger delivered a superb cross to Rondon at the far post. The striker rose highest to head it past Ben Foster and take his goal tally for the season to five.
Rondon had another goal disallowed for offside, and by the end of the half United were controlling the ball.
Federico Fernandez had left the field clutching his back at the break, and the defender was replced by Fabian Schar for the second half.
Watford pressed for an equaliser, but time and again the visitors frustrated them. Newcastle also created chances of their own on the couter-attack, and Ritchie tested Foster with a fierce drive midway through the half.
United fans taunted Watford about Rondon with 15 minutes left on the clock, but the home support would have the last laugh.
Substitute Doucoure lost his marker to head home an equaliser from a Deulofeu cross with eight minutes left on the clock.
WATFORD: Foster, Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Masina (Holebas, 79), Capoue, Quina (Doucoure, 54), Pereyra, Hughes (Deeney, 54), Success, Deulofeu. Subs not used: Gomes, Britos, Cleverley, Sema.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Dubavka; Yedlin, Fernandez (Schar, 46), Lascelles, Dummett; Diame, Hayden (Shelvey, 78); Ritchie, Perez, Atsu; Rondon. Subs not used: Woodman, Manquillo, Murphy, Muto, Joselu.
Goals: Rondon 29, Doucoure 82
Bookings: Masina 44, Yedlin 66, Schar 90
Referee: Roger East (Wiltshire)