Millwall's mini revival came to an abrupt halt in frustrating circumstances as Watford went top of the Championship with this victory at Vicarage Road.
The Lions gave their all on an afternoon in which some clinical Watford finishing coupled with inconsistent officiating ultimately put paid to any hope of gaining the reward their efforts deserved.
Millwall got of to a perfect start when Martyn Woolford kept his composure to fire home the opener on 12 minutes, only for The Hornets to edge into a 2-1 lead at the half-way stage in controversial fashion with goals from Matej Vydra (36mins) and Daniel Tozser (45+2mins).
Gianni Munari added a third goal for The Hornets on 64 minutes with a crisp strike to put the game beyond Millwall's reach, although the visiting backline were still taking their position when referee Robert Madley allowed a free-kick to be taken quickly.
However it was an afternoon of sheer frustration for the Millwall camp, who felt aggrieved at some decisions that at times were perplexing, at others, inconsistent.
Lions boss Ian Holloway made three changes to the team that beat Cardiff City with Danny Shittu, who scored the matchwinner last Saturday, dropping to the bench along with fellow centre half Mark Beevers. Skipper Alan Dunne returned to the centre of the back four with Byron Webster returning to defence. Striker Lee Gregory was replaced by Woolford.
It was Watford who flew out of the traps and it took a solid save by David Forde to prevent Vydra opening the scoring after he played a neat one-two with fellow frontman Troy Deeney.
However having absorbed early pressure, it was Millwall who took the lead on 12 minutes with a super goal by Woolford. Scott McDonald, at the heart of some great intricate passing moves by The Lions, did well to keep possession and fed Woolford, who controlled the ball before rifling a low shot past Heurelho Gomes in the home goal.
Back came The Hornets, however and Forde stuck out a boot to divert Juan Carlos Paredes' goalbound effort just two minutes later.
Forde was called into action again after 36 minutes, saving well from an Odion Ighalo free-kick, however from the resulting corner there was little the keeper could do to prevent Vydra knocking the ball beyond his reach following a well-worked rotuine.
Millwall - and Ricardo Fuller in particular - were left bewildered when the big front man was sent sprawling in the penalty area four minutes before half-time. The referee waved played on to the disgust of the 1,900 Lions fans packed behind the goal and the fury of the Millwall bench.
Woolford then went close to restoring The Lions advantage in the 43rd-minute, but sliced narrowly off target after picking up the ball 16 yards out.
However there was to be another big decision that went against Millwall, this time when Deeney appeared to foul Dunne on the edge of the penalty area. Incredibly the free-kick was awarded Watford's way and from a central position Tozser smashed the ball past a seven-man Millwall wall high into the roof of the net to put the hosts 2-1 ahead at the break.
Within seconds of the restart the travelling fans were again perplexed when Ighalo clearly carried the ball a good foot over the line as he charged down the flank, the linesman failed to spot this and thankfully Webster was on hand to tidy up in a dangerous position high up the field. It was, however, another occasion when the officiating caused frustration in the Millwall camp.
A neat one-touch move involving Munari and Deeney set Vydra free in the 56th-minute and it took the quick reactions of keeper Forde, who sprinted out of the penalty area, to clear the ball with a sliding tackle.
The Lions made their first change just past the hour-mark in a straight swap that saw left-back Briggs replaced by Scott Malone. Seconds later a clear foul on Fuller, who was shoved to the ground as he prepared to cross into the penalty area, inexplicably went unpunished.
That decision proved costly and when play broke up the other end it was Watford who were awarded a free-kick. The ball was slipped quickly to Vydra with the Millwall backline still getting into position, and his cut-back was slammed into the bottom corner by Munari from 16 yards.
Holloway brought on Magaye Gueye for Fuller on 69 minutes after a tireless performance from the big frontman with Watford responding by replacing Vydra with Lloyd Dyer.
Sub Gueye made an immediate impression and slipped the ball to Woolford, who was denied his second goal of the afternoon by a goalline clearance from Daniel Pudil.
Gueye then tested Gomes with a stinging drive as The Lions tried in vain to get back into the game, with the keeper brilliantly tipping Dunne's bullet header from a Shaun Williams corner away.
At the other end a brilliant piece of defending by Andy Wilkinson, using his experience skill and judgement, allowed Williams to block Paredes as the pacy winger looked to break clear.
A late flurry of injury-time pressure from Millwall failed to reap the reward of any further goals and the final whistle was met by a resounding chorus of boos from the Lions fans, directed not at the team, but the referee and his assistants.
Gomes, Paredes, Bassong (Hoban, 31mins), Ekstrand, Pudil (Doyley, 80mins), Andrews, Munari, Tozser, Vydra (Dyer, 72mins), Ighalo, Deeney. Subs not used: Bond, McGugan, Forestieri, Murray.
Scorers: Vydra (36mins), Tozser (45+2mins), Munari (64mins)