Kick-off may have been delayed due to a false fire alarm, but that was no excuse for Bournemouth and Watford’s defenders vacating the Vitality Stadium for the entire first half.
A gloriously bonkers, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it opening 45 minutes saw six goals fly in from nine shots on target. Watford led 2-0, then it was 2-2, then 3-2, then Bournemouth clawed it back to 3-3.
And as is often the case, order was restored in the second half. Defenders remembered how to defend and the scoreline did not budge from then on.
Troy Deeney's thumping header after 14 minutes handed the visitors a valuable early lead
A lightning-fast attack from the Cherries leaves Ryan Fraser with plenty of time to slot home the sixth goal
BOURNEMOUTH: Begovic, Steve Cook, Ake, Daniels, Stanislas, Gosling, Lerma, Fraser (Mousset 82), Brooks, Wilson (Ibe 81), King. SUBS NOT USED: Boruc, Surman, Defoe, Rico, Mings
GOALS: Ake 34, Wilson 37, Fraser 40
WATFORD: Foster, Femenia, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas, Doucoure (Cleverley 56), Capoue, Sema (Hughes 71), Pereyra, Deulofeu (Success 90), Deeney SUBS NOT USED: Gomes, Britos, Masina, Quina
GOALS: Deeney 14, 28, Sema 38
BOOKINGS: Doucoure, Capoue, Deeney, Holebas
REFEREE: David Coote
Troy Deeney's opener came after the visitors strung an incisive 11-pass move together. Click here for more analysis from our MATCHZONE feature.
So the spoils were shared but this game will be remembered as the one where the art of defending temporarily disappeared at the Vitality.
Bournemouth thumped Watford 4-0 in the reverse fixture at Vicarage Road in October, which lifted them to fifth at the time. David Brooks, arguably the best breakthrough player in the Premier League this season, scored the opener in that triumph.
The 21-year-old came close to repeating the trick when he landed a shot on the roof of Ben Foster’s goal within two minutes.
Neither side had a grip of this game, but it was very much the calm before the storm.
Javi Gracia hoped to end a run of seven successive New Year opening fixtures for the Hornets
ALthough they fought back for a point, Eddie Howe's Bournemouth have just one win in five and sit 12th in the Premier League
Deeney rose highest to nod home from Ken Sema's right-wing cross to open the scoring
The Hornets were flying and Deeney capitalised to fire home his second of the night to double the advantage
In the 14th minute, Watford stole the lead from their first chance when Ken Sema floated in a cross and found Troy Deeney. The captain directed his free header into the far corner.
Ryan Fraser should have equalised immediately but instead of shooting into the space either side of Foster, he fired into the grateful