Marnick Vermijl’s clinical strike sunk 10-man Watford as PNE sailed through to the next round of the League Cup.
Vermijl scored his first ever PNE goal after Josh Brownhill’s shot was charged down and trickled fortuitously to his feet in the centre of the box.
The Belgian gobbled up the golden opportunity and smashed the ball past Giedrius Arlauskis in the eighth minute.
The Hornets had a sting in their tail in the 76th minute as Bailey Wright was felled by a Miguel Britos elbow.
The defender’s were waiting for a Watford corner in the PNE box when the incident happened and referee Stephen Martin showed Britos a straight red card.
After the dismissal a North End victory was all but secured and they retained another clean sheet and dumped the Premier League opposition out of the cup.
PNE boss Simon Grayson made five changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Ipswich in the Championship on Saturday.
Brownhill, Alan Browne, Vermijl, Calum Woods and Kyel Reid came into the starting XI and Greg Cunningham missed the clash due to a hamstring strain as Chris Humphrey, Daniel Johnson, Paul Gallagher and John Welsh moved to the bench.
Will Keane missed the clash due to a knock to his leg but Jermaine Beckford returned to the bench as PNE continue to manage his return from a knee injury.
Watford boss Quique Flores made eleven changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Southampton on Saturday and only named six substitutes opposed to the standard seven.
Joe Garner had his eye on goal against his former club within seconds of the kick-off as he smashed the ball just wide of the left post.
But Vermijl opened the scoring in the eighth minute. The Belgian could not believe his luck as Brownhill’s shot trickled into his path and he fired home in style.
Garner was bundled to the ground by Britos just as it looked like the striker was about to connect with Calum Woods’ cross but the referee waved away his appeal.
Matej Vydra attempted the spectacular after latching on to Nathan Ake’s sublime cut back unmarked just outside the box but the striker’s first time volley flew to safety.
Chances were few and far between as the half drew to a close but there were a flurry of bookings. Alan Browne was cautioned in the 34th minute for a late challenge on the half-way line. Vydra was booked for kicking the ball away after Browne was fouled and Britos was booked for fouling Brownhill on the half-way line in the 42nd minute.
Watford’s Miguel Layun ended the half with a spectacular strike as his long distance effort flew over Pickford’s cross bar just before the referee blew for half-time.
Layun was straight into the action in the second half but his shot from just outside the box was deflected wide by Bailey Wright in the 50th minute.
Brownhill ran through on goal minutes later but the youngster got the ball stuck under his feet and Watford were able to recover.
And seconds later Garner stung Arlauskis’s palms with a fierce effort from distance.
Reid out muscled Ake to an aerial ball, knocked it past another defender but his left footed strike just fizzes wide.
The winger attempted the spectacular from distance but he lofted the ball over the bar and into the stands.
Ben Watson blatantly handled the ball just outside the Watford box and Nil Kilkenny’s subsequent teasing set-piece just missed a number of PNE heads. The clearance fell to Reid in the 71st minute but he blasted over from just outside the box.
Moments later Watford nearly levelled as substitute Steven Berghuis slipped in Forestieri but his angles shot just fizzed across goal.
After being named in Gareth Southgate’s England Under-21 squad for the 2017 European qualifiers Pickford showed what he is made of.
The young on-loan Sunderland keeper pulled off a spectacular diving fingertip save in the 75th minute to tip Watson’s curling effort away from the top right corner.
The visitor’s had a man sent off a minute later as Britos was shown a straight red card for allegedly elbowing Wright as they were jostling in the box awaiting a Watford corner.
After the red Watford rarely troubled PNE and the Lilywhites sailed into the third round.
PNE: Pickford, Vermijl, Clarke, Wright, Kilkenny, Garner (Beckford, 85), Woods, Browne, Reid (Humphrey, 85), Brownhill, Huntington. Subs not used: Kirkland, Johnson, Gallagher, Welsh, Davies.
Watford: Arlauskis, Britos, Angella, Vydra, Forestieri, Parades, Ake, Layun, Abdi, Watson, Smith (Berghuis, 60) Subs not used: Gilmartin, Pudil, Belkalem, Hoban, Dyer.
Referee: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire)
Attendance: 6250 (369 away)