Burnley 2, Watford 0
Questions were raised as to how the Clarets would adapt to the striker's absence after last season's Championship player of the year was handed a four-game ban by the FA.
But, as Sean Dyche would put it, no individual is bigger than the squad. And so it proved.
The hosts took on a more structured, economical and methodical approach to their latest Premier League fixture.
Instead of hitting hopeful balls in to the channels - lost causes which Gray was expected to chase - the Clarets played to feet and looked to build a momentum.
All this while remaining disciplined without possession, narrowing passing channels to prevent the Hornets from getting the ball in to skipper Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo.
In fact the home side's performance was so perfectly balanced they made their opponents look a shade of the side that recently beat Manchester United.
The hosts were on top from the off, forcing Walter Mazzarri's men on to the back foot. The work rate and attitude of the hosts was imply magnificent.
George Boyd went close in the opening 10 minutes after Craig Cathcart conceded a corner from Johann Berg Gudmundsson's in-swinging cross.
The winger wrapped his left boot around the ball as Steven Defour's set-piece broke kindly in the box but Heurelho Gomes flicked his rising drive over the bar.
It was highly publicised this week that the Clarets had clocked up the fewest shots on goal so far in the top flight.
However, Icelandic international Gudmundsson ensured that the tally continued to increase when cutting inside on to his left foot and firing an attempt just wide of the near post.
Burnley's back line was rarely exposed but Defour had to be in the right place at the right time to block Jose Holebas's volley once Etienne Capoue's deep corner had picked out the Greek defender on the edge of the box.
The breakthrough arrived seven minutes before the interval when the club's record signings combined.
Defour delivered the corner to the far side of the six yard box and Jeff Hendrick rose above his marker to head home and open his account for the club.
The Clarets almost added a second immediately when Ben Mee provided the knock down from a long ball forward but Sam Vokes, on the stretch, couldn't quite get his studs to the ball from close range after slipping goal side of Sebastian Prodl.
As the curtain came down on the opening 45 minutes, Tom Heaton fell to his right to claim Ighalo's header from Roberto Pereyra's cross. It was just Watford's second touch in the Burnley box all half.
The visitors were gifted a rare sighting of goal early in the second half when Heaton beat away Deeney's thumping right-footed effort at his near post, but the Clarets captain wasn't called in to action on many other occasions.
Gomes, on the other hand, was finding himself in the firing line and it wasn't long until the former Spurs stopper was beaten again.
After Prodl turned Boyd's low strike behind for a corner, Defour had a second bite of the cherry when standing the ball up to the far post and Michael Keane towered above his man to guide the ball in to the corner and claim his first Premier League goal.
Defour, who secured his second assist of the evening, has now had a hand in four of Burnley's five goals since arriving from RSC Anderlecht.
Vokes, who was outstanding throughout when dominating his aerial battles, deserved a goal and it almost came from a sumptuous Matt Lowton pass but, having stepped past Gomes, the striker clipped the effort in to the side-netting.
Defour, who was awarded the man of the match accolade in a display filled with craft and graft, stung the palms of Gomes with a thumping strike soon after as the Clarets looked to add a third.
Hornets substitute Isaac Success almost halved the deficit when getting goal side of Lowton at the byline and attempting to squeeze the ball past Heaton from an acute angle. However, the hosts breathed a huge sigh of relief when the ball trickled wide of the far upright.
And that was that. The Clarets, with three points and a clean sheet to boot, climbed to 13th in the table, level on points with champions Leicester City.
They now entertain Arsenal at Turf Moor on Sunday.