An early goal from captain Deeney proved enough for Slavisas Jokanovic’s promotion-pushing Hornets, but the visitors will feel they did enough to earn a point after a game in which they contributed plenty.
Watford headed into the match as the top scoring team in England’s four senior divisions with 69 goals and it took just nine minutes for number 70 to arrive.
An Almen Abdi corner was flicked on at the near post and Fulham’s defenders failed to react after Marcus Bettinelli clawed the ball away, and it sat up invitingly for Deeney to thump a half-volley into the roof of the net to score his 15th of the campaign.
Ross McCormack had Fulham’s first chance of note but Heurelho Gomes stood up well to his rising left-footed strike. That was to be one of few opportunities the visitors created in the first half, although they had the majority of possession and stretched their opponents defensively on one more than one occasion.
The Hornets had to settle for playing on the counter for much of the first half, but they did twice go close to extending their lead in the final 10 minutes of the opening half.
First Abdi sent a superbly struck first-time shot whistling narrowly wide from 20 yards before the hosts went even closer when Adlene Guedioura, making his first appearance since returning on loan from Crystal Palace, set up Matej Vydra, whose shot on the turn looped over Bettinelli but rebounded away off the crossbar.
Fulham maintained their positive approach after the restart but they were perhaps fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men after 57 minutes when Jazz Richards retaliated after being bundled over by Vydra, getting to his feet and shoving the Hornets striker to the ground. But referee Trevor Kettle decided the offence was only worthy of a yellow card.
Chances continued to be at a premium in what was an evenly matched yet absorbing contest.
Craig Cathcart had headed an Abdi corner tamely at Betenelli before Abdi fired wide from the edge of the area and then directed a half-volley from a similar range at the Fulham goalkeeper after a cross from substitute Miguel Layun had been half-cleared.
In between times though, Cauley Woodrow and Shaun Hutchinson headed corners over the target, the latter coming after Seko Fofana had seen a shot deflected behind.
But Fulham’s best chance of an equaliser arrived with 10 minutes remaining when a ball into the middle was flicked through to McCormack, who got a clean strike at goal from 12 yards but was denied by a fine save from Gomes.