Newcastle United were comprehensively beaten by Watford on Saturday afternoon as they went down 3-0 to the Hornets.
Will Hughes struck for the visitors inside 20 minutes with his second goal in as many games, and a DeAndre Yedlin own goal made it 2-0 before the break.
Andre Gray added a third in the second half as Rafael Benitez’ side were comfortably outplayed by Marco Silva’s Watford.
The result means the away side are now just three points away from fourth spot, while Newcastle stay in 13th place.
The Hornets also passed up a series of other opportunities in front of a largely frustrated crowd of 52,188 as they condemned the Magpies to a fourth successive defeat and exposed the lack of genuine quality available to Benitez, whose hopes of reaching 20 points by the end of the year look forlorn.
With Tyneside once again gripped by takeover talk after Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners tabled an initial offer, Benitez insisted in the run-up to the game that he would concentrate only on what he could control.
But the alarm bells were ringing long before the half-time whistle ended a torrid first 45 minutes for the home side, whose flaws were cruelly exposed by the rampant visitors.
They might have set a very different tone inside the opening three minutes had winger Jacob Murphy not been out-muscled by Christian Kabasele after running on to Dwight Gayle’s flick, or had striker Joselu made meaningful contact with Murphy’s inviting low cross.
Matt Ritchie drilled an 11th-minute shot into the side-netting, but, as Hornets wing-backs Kiko Femenia and Zeegelaar started to make an impression, the tide began to turn.
Keeper Rob Elliot had to make an important save to deny Richarlison on the break three minutes later after Tom Cleverley had played him in over the top, but the visitors went ahead with 19 minutes played as the Magpies were caught sleeping.
Zeegelaar was given time and space on the left to pick out Hughes inside the box and his finish was unerring.
Newcastle were laboured in their efforts for force their way back into the game and they were punished once again in stoppage time when Zeegelaar’s cross clipped Yedlin and beat Elliot at his near post.
Watford would have been out of sight had Gray not fired wastefully wide after Zeegelaar had taken full advantage of Yedlin’s absence to play the striker in behind Florian Lejeune within three minutes of the restart.
Benitez’s men were in tatters as the back, with the visitors looking capable of adding to their tally at will as they marauded repeatedly down their left flank, and they struck once again with 62 minutes gone when Richarlison was allowed to picked out Gray at the far post and he made no mistake.
Benitez threw on Mikel Merino, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez in a bid for redemption, but Gray was guilty of another glaring miss as time ran down.