Watford found themselves on the end of a 4-0 defeat to Manchester City that was all-too-comfortable for the visitors, taking their fight for Premier League survival into the final game of the season, away at Arsenal on Sunday.

While the Hornets showed some improvement from recent weeks in which they had to rely on strong second-half performances to salvage points, before a 3-1 defeat at West Ham ended up with Nigel Pearson paying with his job, they never really looked like threatening their opponents.

Meanwhile Raheem Sterling found enough space to open the scoring mid-way through the first-half before adding a second with a rebound after Ben Foster had saved his penalty. Phil Foden and Aymeric Laporte heaped further misery in the second-half.

In Hayden Mullins’s first game back in the interim head coach position, he restored Roberto Pereyra to the starting line up, as well as Adrian Mariappa, in place of Danny Welbeck and Adam Masina, whose first-half performance at West Ham was enough to see him replaced at half-time. Etienne Capoue remained unavailable due to the injury he picked up ahead of the game at the London Stadium.

The first real chance of the evening came against the run of play with Watford camping deep in their own half and absorbing pressure. On a rare foray forward, an unconvincing Laporte clearance fell to the feet of Will Hughes, but his lazy swing of the boot sent the ball bobbling wide.

Then, just seconds later, Rodri almost gave the visitors the lead at the other end. The Hornets defenders stood steadfast on their 18-yard-line, inviting the attack and the City midfielder let fly, only for Foster to thwart with a smart tip around the post.

Mullins had set his side up to defend with one bank of five in midfield and another of four just behind, in a bid to limit the room in which City could manoeuvre. They did a decent job of soaking up more or less everything that was thrown at them by the visitors, with balls into the box initially dealt with without too much difficulty.

However, all it took was a momentary lapse in concentration for Pep Guardiola’s side to craft an opportunity good enough to take the lead.

Kyle Walker’s cross from the right seemed destined for the far post, but Sterling trapped the ball in his feet in the centre of the area and fired past Foster, with Craig Dawson not quick enough to close down the shot, making Watford’s mountain that little bit steeper.

Sterling doubled the visitors’ advantage ten minutes later after Tom Cleverley’s heavy touch was pounced upon by Phil Foden. He picked out Sterling, who was tripped in the area by Hughes and although Foster denied the winger from the spot at the first time of asking, the rebound was a simple enough opportunity to convert.

After Kevin De Bruyne looped a shot over Foster’s bar from inside the six-yard-box, Watford broke down the other end of the field and a foul by Rodri on Deeney presented them with the opportunity to send the ball into the area.

Dawson climbed highest to get on the end of Hughes’s delivery and headed on target, but it was straight at the legs of Ederson, who had no difficulty keeping it out.

The Hornets were seemingly caught by surprise at the start of the second-half with City creating two chances within the opening minute.

First, a sloppy backpass from Pereyra was pounced upon by Gabriel Jesus, who made light work of bursting away from Dawson, only for Foster to charge off his line and make a smart stop.

Foster was called upon again just moments later with Sterling looking to lay claim to the match ball with a shot from the edge of the area but again the keeper was on hand to paw the ball away.

City ramped up their pressure as the game entered its final third, with De Bruyne’s dipping free-kick first requiring attention from Foster, before Foden prodded the ball into an empty net following Sterling’s saved effort, as Watford’s resolve further weakened.

Three became four shortly after when an unmarked Laporte got on the end of a De Bruyne free-kick that was cheaply conceded by the Hornets out on the left, rubbing salt in the the wounds of a defence that had at times stood firm in the face of repeated waves of City attack.

Substitute Danny Welbeck almost pulled one back for the hosts with ten minutes remaining when he evaded City’s offside trap, but a sprawling Ederson denied him at the one-on-one in what was Watford’s best opportunity of the match.

Gabriel Jesus looked to have added a fifth with a stoppage time header, but the referee's assistant raised his flag to rule it out for offside.

The defeat means the Hornets remain perched just three points above the relegation zone, while the four goals they let in have removed the goal difference advantage they held over fellow relegation candidates Aston Villa and Bournemouth.

 A nail-biting season finale awaits at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon.