Derby County 1-2 Reading
Saturday December 18, Pride Park, (Att: 24,514)
Derby suffered a fourth successive loss as Shane Long's goal two minutes from time helped Reading leap above their hosts in the Championship standings.
In an open game, the home side began strongly with only the post denying Alberto Bueno an opening goal.
Then, Royals keeper Adam Federici made his first of a number of fine saves - pushing away Stephen Pearson's shot after a Kris Commons's free kick had deflected kindly into his path.
However, it was the visitors who came closest to going in front with County indebted to Dean Moxey's goal line clearance after they failed to deal with Ian Harte's free kick into the box.
Federici was then called into action once more as he turned away a stinging shot from Luke Moore. It was to prove crucial, as minutes later Brian McDermott's men found themselves in front.
Jobi McAnuff seized upon some sloppy midfield play and, after a marauding run up field, he slipped the ball through for Shane Long.
The Irish striker was tugged back by Shaun Barker and referee Darren Deadman had no hesitation in awarding a penalty.
Long stepped up to convert the spot kick himself and send Reading into the break 1-0 up.
Nigel Clough's side brought influential midfielder Robbie Savage on after the interval as they looked to restore parity, but once again were thwarted by Federici. This time the Australian making a fine save to keep out a Bueno free kick.
Reading responded, with Rams custodian Stephen Bywater doing well to turn a Noel Hunt shot wide for a corner and deny the Royals a second. He was a virtual spectator though when a Long header from another dangerous free kick struck the woodwork.
Off the hook, Derby got back on level terms just after the hour mark. Top scorer Commons with a glancing header at the back post from Paul Green's deep cross.
Neither side were settling for a point and County were once more denied by heroics from Federici as he pulled off a point blank save to prevent Moore from finding the back of the net.
However, with time running out, it was the side from Berkshire who returned home with all three points. McAnuff's driven ball into the box caught out Bywater and Long beat him to the ball to head into an unguarded net.
It ensured Reading ended their seven game winless streak and move up to 7th in the table - just four points off the play offs with a game in hand.
For Nigel Clough and Derby though, a worrying run of results needs to be urgently stemmed if they are to remain in the top six hunt.