The first chance fell to Watford when Jose Holebas whipped in a left-wing free kick, with Jack Butland doing well to gather Sebastian Prodl’s low strike in the first minute.
The visitors missed a decent opportunity midway through the half, when Richarlison pulled the ball back into the path of Tom Cleverley on the edge of the box, but the midfielder blazed over the bar.
Stoke’s best effort of the first half came from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, with the forward curling an angled shot inches wide of the far post, with Watford keeper Orestis Karnezis beaten.
If Watford shaded the first period, it was Stoke who were the better team in the second half and created the best chance on 62 minutes.
A long ball down field was inadvertently flicked towards his own goal by Prodl and into the path of Xherdan Shaqiri. The Swiss ace volleyed goalwards from 10 yards out, forcing a decent save from Karnezis, who then gathered Peter Crouch’s follow-up header.
Against the run of play, the Hornets nearly snatched the points six minutes from time, when Gerard Deulofeu pulled the ball back from the byline and substitute Roberto Pereyra’s shot was pushed round the post by Butland.
The result sees Watford move ahead of West Ham and into 11th on goal difference, while, Stoke City are 16th and lingering just a point above the dreaded relegation zone.
Uwe Rosler was sacked by Fleetwood following a 3-0 reverse at Doncaster which condemned Town to a seventh straight defeat in all competitions.
Cambridge interim head coach Joe Dunne was pleased with how his side adapted to beat Grimsby 3-1.
Southend manager Chris Powell led the applause for Jason Demetriou after the right-back scored twice in the 3-1 win against Portsmouth at Roots Hall.
Morecambe boss Jim Bentley was the happier manager after Gregg Wylde's 90th-minute strike earned his side a point in their 1-1 draw with Forest Green.
Manager Gareth Ainsworth described Wycombe's 2-0 win at Cheltenham as a thoroughly professional performance.
Skipper Richard Wood scored the winner just before half time as in-form Rotherham pulled off a 1-0 victory at League One leaders Shrewsbury.