In this desperate final battle against relegation, Watford showed a spirit and desire missing for so much of their painful, turbulent campaign. Their problem was that it took until they were three goals down, their hopes all but gone, to play like a team who truly believed they could stay up.
So this is how the Premier League adventure ends for Watford, relegated despite impressing for much of the game against far better opponents. They were good enough to win here, but they have simply not been good enough across this season, as made clear by captain Troy Deeney in a characteristically blunt post-match interview.
"It is heartbreaking for the people who work behind the scenes," he said. "The harsh reality of it is that some people will lose their jobs because we have not been good enough. We have to appreciate that fans will be hurt and angry and annoyed." There is a strong possibility that Deeney will not be around for the next stage of the club's journey. He is having a knee operation next week, which may signal the end of his Watford career. "If that is my last game, I am happy I went out on my shield," he said. "I am a simple man. Did I go out and do everything I could? Yes. Was it good enough? No."
Could it be his last game as a player? "I am not that old," he said. "Where I am from, I keep going to the end. If it's next week or two years from now, I will say I had a good time and made my kids proud, and that is all that matters."
In many ways, this bizarre match was a fitting conclusion to Watford's season in which they fired three managers, thrashed the champions and finished 19th.
And yet their defending in the first 30 minutes, conceding three goals out of nothing, was a reminder of why they are in this position. Craig Dawson conceded a penalty after 30 seconds, which spoke volumes about Watford's defensive solidity. "It is a reflection of the whole year," Deeney said. "We have not quite been good enough at both ends of the pitch. It is frustrating."
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was a gleeful punisher of these errors, scoring from the spot and then again half an hour later, and in between there was also a goal for Kieran Tierney. But Deeney kept the game alive with a penalty and Danny Welbeck breathed more hope into Watford's afternoon in the second half. It wasn't enough.
© Daily Telegraph, London