With 20 minutes to go, with the noise building and with sixth-tier Woking beginning to believe, Javi Gracia turned to his ace in the pack. To a chorus of boos, on trotted Troy Deeney: a player who could cover Woking's entire annual budget with a couple of months' earnings.
And in Paul Weller's home town, it took just three minutes for Watford's captain to get his side out of a jam, and into round four.
Deeney's 74th-minute goal, to add to Will Hughes' 13th-minute opener, thus gave the visitors a win that was ultimately comfortable enough, even if it wouldn't win too many points from the style council.
In the intervening hour, however, the Conference South side gave as good as they got, turning the game into a scrappy arm wrestle and giving a capacity crowd of 5,717 plenty of reasons to be cheerful ahead of a vital promotion campaign.
The £150,000 windfall will also soften the blow for a club who stared into the abyss last summer, relegated from the Conference National, with every player in the squad made available and all but one ultimately leaving the club.
Forced to go part-time, an entirely new squad including a hairdresser, an English teacher, a personal trainer and a tax specialist are giving this Surrey commuter town its football team back.
They wore the numbers 1-11, ran their hearts out and as Watford returned to their gilded millionaires' league, they knew they had been in a game.
For Gracia, a vindication of sorts, having gently tempted fate by making a full set of 11 changes for this game.
Even so, Watford were able to field six full internationals, with two of England's brightest young talents in Hughes and Nathaniel Chalobah marshalling the midfield.
They were two of Watford's best players, with the haring left-back Adam Masina and the slippery Domingos Quina also acquitting themselves well.
And indeed after Hughes opened the scoring early on, clipping home Masina's cut-back corner, Watford briefly threatened the sort of rout Tottenham and Manchester City also dished out this weekend.
Quina and Isaac Success both had good chances, while Tom Cleverley hit the bar with a vicious free-kick.
But Woking rode their luck to half-time, even forcing Heurelho Gomes into a sharp low save from Ben Gerring's header.
Urged on by Martin Tyler, the first-team coach taking a day off from his Sky Sports commentary duties, Woking finally began to enjoy themselves, finally began to take advantage of what their manager Alan Dowson had described as "a free hit" of a game.
Watford's intensity gradually dropped, their slick passing moves beginning to crack under Woking's physical approach, and with every passing minute the game remained 1-0, the home fans began to believe a little more.
"Premier League, you're having a laugh", they trilled as Cleverley put a simple pass straight into the crowd.
Deeney's introduction put a stop to that. Ken Sema wriggled free and skimmed in a low cross, and with a poacher's instinct partially honed during his own non-league spell on loan at Halesowen Town more than a decade ago, Deeney stole in ahead of his marker and tucked the ball home.
The shock had been averted, but there was still plenty of pride to play for, and during a stirring finish Woking held firm and even occasionally threatened to carve out an opening of their own.
For them, a return to the non-league treadmill and a game against Welling in midweek.
For Gracia, a chilled and well-earned bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale, waiting for him in Dowson's fridge after the game.
For Watford, a place in the fourth round, and with a decent run, perhaps even a first appearance in the final since 1984.
Well, why not? That's the thing about the FA Cup: the dreams come in all sizes. (© Independent News Service)