Having beaten top flight Birmingham City at Vicarage Road in the third round, Watford were disappointed to get an away draw for the next round match.
Southampton were going very well in the Third Division and had thrashed First Division Manchester City 5-1 at Maine Road in the previous round.
Watford’s manager Ron Burgess knew he had to pull off another tactical masterstroke if they were to avoid defeat at The Dell and bring the Saints back to Vicarage Road.
Worried about Southampton’s pair of wingers, John Sydenham and Terry Paine, Burgess spent the week before the match working out how to stop them. He told Bobby Bell to make sure he hugged the touchline so Sydenham had to cut inside, rather than go outside where he could use his left foot to great effect. It worked, Watford escaped with a hard-earned 2-2 draw thanks to a Cliff Holton strike and an own goal.
Cup fever gripped the town again as more than 28,000 supporters turned up to see if Watford could reach the fifth round for the first time since 1932.
Burgess was concerned that his containment tactics might not be so effective on the wider Vicarage Road pitch.
Watford grabbed the first goal and then defended it doggedly. It was Barry Hartle who scored, hooking the ball back over a mass of players from a Freddie Bunce corner.
After that came an hour of nerve-wracking, backs-to-the-wall stuff for Watford. Jimmy Linton made three excellent saves to preserve their lead.
On the counter-attack, Dennis Uphill cut through the Saints defence twice, only to be brought down heavily when poised to shoot. Holton almost scored a second when he hit the post in the second half. Watford held on.
The Watford Observer printed the pictures of the 11 players on the front page with the headline: ‘Here are the men of the week. The heroes who brought honour to Watford.’
Watford Linton, Bell, Nicholas, Catleugh, McNeice, Chung, Benning, Holton, Uphill, Hartle, Bunce
Manager Ron Burgess
Scorer Hartle 31
Why was this match chosen? FA Cup runs were few and far between in those days and so to reach the fifth round for the first time in 28 years – and only the third time in the club's history – really captured the imagination. When you consider that in the next 20 years Watford only got this far in the cup twice (when they reached the semi-finals in 1970 and the sixth round in 1980) it puts into context the rarity of such a long cup run.
How do I feel about this game's inclusion now? Southampton were only a Third Division side but in those days, the gaps in class between the divisions were smaller and the Saints had quite a reputation, particularly with Terry Paine up front.