Goals from Domingos Quina, a Troy Deeney penalty, Nathaniel Chalobah and Joao Pedro gave Watford the points at Vicarage Road.
North End did narrow the deficit at 2-0 when Tom Barkhuizen scored his fourth goal of the season, but Vladimir Ivic’s side grabbed two quick-fire goals to take it away from Alex Neil’s men.
Bens, Davies and Pearson both returned to the starting line-up for the Lilywhites, two of five changes, with Brad Potts, Jordan Storey and Sean Maguire also included in a 3-5-2 formation.
And they started brightly, a third minute chance saw Maguire drive a shot in from 25 yards, that was tipped over by Ben Foster for the first corner. Skipper Daniel Johnson’s cross found Storey, but his shot went wide of the right-hand post.
Soon after, a brilliant move saw Tom Barkhuizen – playing at left wing back - find Johnson, who in turn found Maguire. The Irishman pulled the ball back to Potts on the edge of the box and he curled an effort an inch wide of the right-hand post from 20 yards.
But the hosts took the lead on nine minutes with their first attempt as a ball in from the right from Jeremy Ngakia found Domingos Quina, who poked in at the back post inside the six-yard box.
Just after the half’s mid-point, James Garner was perhaps lucky not to be red carded for standing on Potts. From the resulting free-kick on the right from Johnson, it was headed down by Patrick Bauer and then the ball came back to him and Foster managed to smother at the German’s feet, as he blasted goalwards in the left corner of the six-yard box.
But seven minutes into the second half, the home side were awarded a penalty. Jordan Storey was adjudged to have brought down Ismaila Sarr, with captain Deeney smashing the spot kick down the middle to double their lead.
North End were back in it just two minutes later as Barkhuizen halved the deficit. He did superbly out on the left wing, nutmegging Sarr, before checking back inside and firing from 30 yards off the back of Garner, flat-footing Foster and ending up in the bottom left-hand corner.
The Hornets though made it three just three minutes after as Nathaniel Chalobah exchanged a one-two with Troy Deeney and fired into the bottom left-hand corner on the half-volley from 15 yards out.
North End should have been awarded a penalty just two minutes later as Emil Riis was brought down when through on goal – the replays showed it was a clear penalty with Christian Kabasele going across the back of the Danish U21 striker.
It was four to the Hornets when a Garner corner from the right was flicked on by Craig Cathcart and Joao Pedro poked home at the back post from just a yard out.
Tom Bayliss came off the bench and his first touch was a header from Potts' left-wing cross that Foster had to be alert to save, with the Lilywhites still pushing hard, but they were unable to narrow the lead further.
Watford line-up: Foster, Ngakia, Deeney (c) (Perica, 71), Chalobah, Cathcart (Sierralta, 88), Garner (Phillips, 88), Gray (Pedro, 30), Quina, Femenia (Wilmot, 71), Sarr, Kabasele. Subs not used: Bachmann, Troost-Ekong, Navarro, Crichlow.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Storey, Bauer, Davies (Huntington, 82), Sinclair, Potts, Pearson (Ledson, 65), Johnson (c) (Bayliss, 79), Barkhuizen, Riis (Stockley, 79), Maguire. Subs not used: Ripley, Holland-Wilkinson, Baxter, O’Reilly, Coulton.
Referee: Mr J Gillett.