Reading 3 (Le Fondre 8, Karacan 42, 70)
Watford 3 (Faraoni 66, Deeney pen 76, Fabbrini 90)
An end-to-end encounter against league leaders Watford ended a point apiece this afternoon, with the Hornets snatching a draw in the last minute of normal time.
Reading raced into the lead in glorious style, Adam Le Fondre volleying home Almunia's punch with a sublime left-footed effort that set the tone for a fantastic six-goal thriller.
A second four minutes before the break came through Jem Karacan's close range finish, but Gianfranco Zola's men responded through a Marco Faraoni header midway through the second half.
Substitute Danny Williams' first contribution was a far post cross to Le Fondre teed up Blackman to pass into Karacan for his second, but Guthrie's foul on Watford's substitute Fabbrini allowed Troy Deeney to pull one back from the spot.
Then in the final minute of normal time, McGugan's deflected drive fell kindly to Fabbrini who toed the ball wide of McCarthy and inside the left post to fortuitously draw the Hornets level.
It was another highly-charged encounter for the 20,805 supporters to enjoy, but ultimately disappointing to see three points snatched away in the final throes. The Royals had outplayed Watford for long periods of the match though and remain unbeaten this season.
Reading: McCarthy, Gunter, Bridge, Morrison, Pearce, Karacan (McCleary 83), Guthrie, McAnuff (c) (Robson-Kanu 74), Drenthe (Williams 68), Blackman, Le Fondre.
Subs: Federici, Kelly, Mariappa, Pogrebnyak
Yellow: Gunter, Blackman
Watford: Almunia, Angella, Eksrand (Brown HT), Doyley, Anya, McGugan, Faraoni, Abdi, Iriney (Fabbrini 59), Forestieri (Acuna 76), Deeney.
Subs: Bond, Smith, Pudil, Battocchio.
Yellow: Faraoni, Angella
Referee: Mr M Jones
Attendance: 20,805 (3,460 away)
The opening stages of a fiesty affair belonged to the hosts as Reading bossed possession and floated free kick, after corner, after free kick into the Hornets box in search of an early opener.
And it came in spectacular style. Jem Karacan's floated cross in from the right was punched clear by Almunia but Adam Le Fondre fiercely lashed a left-footed first time volley past the stunned Manuel Almunia and into the back of the Watford net.
Soon after, Nigel Akdins' men almost had a second. Breaking at pace through the lively Drenthe, the Dutchman linked up with Alfie to feed Blackman, and he drilled a deflected effort inches wide of the bottom right corner.
At the other end, a Fernando Forestieri drive deflected off Alex Pearce and whistled just beyond Alex McCarthy but also just wide of the far post. And Gianfranco Zola's men began to find their feet, passing the ball well and demonstrating why they came so close to promotion to the Premier League last season.
McCarthy had to be watchful when Lewis McGugan skipped past a couple of challenges and whipped a 20-yard effort on target, but Alfie forced Almunia into a much better one-on-one save moments later, wriggling free of his marker, picking his spot, and smashing it goalwards only for the Spaniard to guess right and parry well.
Five minutes before the break, Reading struck again. Drenthe won a free kick and with everyone expecting him to shoot, Guthrie cannily stepped up and dinked a cross to an unmarked Pearce at the far post. His header across goal found Karacan who swept the loose ball goalwards, it cannoned off a defender on the line, back against Jem and a Watford body on the floor and over the line for a scrappy but deserved second.
And that second goal took the sting out of the Hornets' gameplan, the half-time whistle coming with the Royals two goals to the good.
Pearce got an early block in to deny a Forestieri strike a clear path towards goal and Blackman danced is way into the box at the other end but couldn't prevent it running over the byline before he could get a shot away.
A cross from the left from Ikechi Anya almost earned Watford a route back into the game, Troy Deeney directing a header back across Alex McCarthy but the Royals stopper brilliantly throwing out a right arm and getting a strong palm to it, and Sean Morrison hacked it off the line to deny the Hornets striker.
But Watford did pull one back with 25 minutes left. A corner from the right was floated into the Royals box and Marco Faraoni headed inside the left post from six yards out.
With their tails up, the visitors almost scored an equaliser seconds later, Forestieri driving a well-struck effort at goal and McCarthy athletically tipping it over his crossbar.
But Nigel Adkins made a change, bringing Danny Williams on for Drenthe and the substitute's first contribution was to beat two men on the left and sail a deep cross towards Le Fondre at the far post. Alfie passed it back to Blackman to stabbed it into Karacan, who calmly controlled it and tucked it past Almunia from 10 yards out to make it 3-1.
Watford refused to be beaten. Guthrie was penalised for a foul on substitute Fabbrini inside the Royals box and Troy Deeney dispatched the penalty from the spot to reduce the deficit once more.
Morrison's outstretched knee did enough to deflect a searching Faraoni cross over the crossbar and out for a corner, then Alfie sliced wide a first time half volley that was awkwardly dropping over his shoulder.
But Watford had the final say. Lewis McGugan arrowed a speculative effort at goal, it took a deflection off a Royals body and spun kindly into the path of Diego Fabbrini who toed it wide of the onrushing McCarthy and into the bottom corner.
A late Guthrie free kick couldn't be directed goalwards by Alex Pearce's header and the final whistle brought an entertaining affair to an end, with the points shared.