Reading 2 (Long 51, 90)
Argyle 1 (Fletcher 68)
A dramatic 90th minute penalty from Shane Long gave the Royals a deserved three points on Tuesday evening, as Brian McDermott's men saw off Plymouth Argyle 2-1.
The Irish international had opened the scoring early in the second period with a smart breakaway goal, but a scrappy Carl Fletcher strike equalled things up for the Pilgrims.
It looked as though the win would elude the home side as Brian Howard's fizzing free-kick somehow stayed out with just moments remaining, but substitute Hal Robson-Kanu did brilliantly to win a spot-kick in stoppage time and Reading's number nine showed a cool head to slot home.
Reading: Federici, Bertrand, Griffin, Ingimarsson, Khizanishvili, Howard, McAnuff, Karacan (Kebe 61), Gunnarsson, Church (Robson-Kanu 73), Long
Subs: Hamer, Pearce, Cisse, Rasiak, Thorvaldsson
Plymouth Argyle: Stockdale, McNamee (Mason 6*), Arnason, Sawyer, R Johnson, Judge (Noone HT), Clark, D Johnson, Fletcher, Mackie, Fallon (Cooper HT)
Subs: Larrieu, Wright-Phillips, Barker, Summerfield
Booked: Noone, Arnason, Clarke
Attendance: 15,484 (1,321 away fans)
Referee: Mr O Langford
From the off Shane Long showed the type of alertness that has produced three goals in as many weeks, finding his way onto a Jobi McAnuff cross two minutes in before forcing a save out of David Stockdale in the Argyle goal.
The home side boasted the lion's share of the possession in the early stages, and threatened again as captain Ivar Ingimarsson headed wide after Ryan Bertrand's corner kick had caused panic amongst the Pilgrims backline.
Some strong but fair tackling from Brian Howard and Brynjar Gunnarsson then robbed the visitors of the ball deep inside their own half, allowing Simon Church to dash free on goal - though the young forward saw his shot blocked by some impressive last ditch defending.
Set pieces looked to be a real threat in the first period, as an Andy Griffin free-kick once more left keeper Stockdale stranded - though again Ingimarsson could only head wide.
However those earlier chances were insignificant in comparison to the opportunity that fell to the feet of Church with half an hour on the clock, as tenacious work from McAnuff found the Welsh international on the penalty spot, but after teeing himself up the Royals' number 18 could only blaze over the crossbar; a good chance gone begging.
Paul Mariner's side spurned their best opportunity four minutes before the break as Rory Fallon headed over from 12 yards, whilst Alan Judge's flailing effort again failed to trouble Federici as the referee signalled an end to a frustrating first half for everyone involved.
It was Argyle who came out the brighter - testing Federici twice in the first five minutes. First Jamie Mackie went on a mazy run through the centre of the park, avoiding the challenges of two Royals players before seeing a stinging drive tipped away by our Aussie number one. From the resulting corner Gary Sawyer found space, but saw his close range volley brilliantly held by our in-form Antipodean.
Mariner's men were forced to pay for their wastefulness, as Shane Long opened the scoring moments later.
The in-form Irishman broke free of his marker to speed through on goal on the counter attack, coolly slotting home his fourth goal of 2010.
Brian Howard then forced Stockdale to scramble across goal and tip a 30-yard free-kick around the post, whilst the former Sheffield United man showed wonderful creativity to turn and flick a pass through to Long on the hour mark, but on this occasion the number nine poked wide.
Now it was the home side forced to rue missed chances, as a scrappy Plymouth move eventually pinballed to Carl Fletcher, who slammed home through a crowd of bodies.
Brynjar Gunnarsson came close to restoring the lead with a header from a Ryan Bertrand set-piece with 75 on the clock, but Stockdale held well under pressure.
More agonising stuff was to come - Howard saw his fizzing set-piece spilled by Stockdale, and with no time to react on the rebound Long was denied only by the foot of the post.
Patience is a virtue though - and the three points were well worth waiting for. They were secured as substitute Hal Robson-Kanu showed brilliant strength and agility to turn his man and drive into the area, before being hauled to the ground by Chris Clark.
Nerves jangled as Reading had missed their last two spot-kicks in Championship football, but Long was never going to be phased as he sent Stockdale the wrong way to grab the match-winner.