The Royals strolled into a Fifth Round with a comprehensive 4-0 victory of Walsall this afternoon, thanks to goals from Hal Robson-Kanu, Danny Williams and a Matej Vydra brace.
The deadlock was broken in a cagey first half when Hal Robson-Kanu spun his man from a throw-in and swept the ball high into the Walsall net with his left foot. And four minutes later it was 2-0 thanks to a nice ball from Williams into Quinn allowing the Irishman to cross low into the six yard box where Vydra coolly converted.
Sawyers hit the woodwork with an effort from range, while Norwood was also denied by the crossbar when he arced a free kick past Etheridge in the second half, but Reading were in total control - Williams adding a third with a run from inside his own half and a cool low finish, before Vydra headed in number four from Gunter's cross.
Boss Brian McDermott handed the fit-again Aaron Tshibola his first start since mid-October and reinstated Stephen Quinn to his midfield too, the cup-tied George Evans making way. Meanwhile captain Paul McShane returned to the squad to take a place on the bench.
And it was Tshibola who had the first shot at goal, a speculative effort from 25 yards out that sailed over the Walsall keeper and skimmed the roof of the net on its way wide and behind for a goal kick.
But the midfielder had to come off with an injury only ten minutes into the game and Walsall almost took advantage immediately after the resumption, Tom Bradshaw racing onto a long ball forward, cutting onto his right boot and sending a shot just wide via a deflection off the covering Jake Cooper's shins.
Williams almost fed Gunter on an overlapping run into the box and Etheridge had to come off his line to cleanly collect a Robson-Kanu cross from the right, but neither side were finding the fluency they were looking for as final passes went astray.
Gunter slid in well on Henry as he looked to pull the trigger at the other end and with ten minutes of the half remaining the Royals broke the deadlock, from a Gunter throw. The right-back fed the ball into the chest of Robson-Kanu
, who brilliantly spun his man and lashed the ball home with his left foot from 8 yards out.
An only four minutes later it was 2-0. Hector passed the ball into Williams who turned to face goal and thread a lovely throughball to set Quinn in behind the Saddlers' defence. His low cross was met by Vydra in the middle, with Robson-Kanu also lining up to finish it off if needed, but the Czech star scored his fifth of the competition by comfortably converting from close range.
Robson-Kanu robbed possession in the final stages of the first half to set up a chance for Vydra, but the striker pulled the trigger early from 22 yards out and dragged the ball wide of the left upright. Reading were in command when the half-time whistle sounded though.
Half-time: Reading 2 Walsall 0
Reading were reminded that the tie was not over when Romaine Sawyers struck the woodwork with a powerful effort from distance that cannoned against the stanchion and behind for a goal kick.
Andy Taylor curled a set piece harmlessly wide of the left post after Williams had brought Henry's break away to a halt illegally, but Norwood came much closer with a free-kick at the other end. Williams had won it, 22 yards out, and Norwood's arcing effort beat Etheridge and cannoned into the crossbar.
Superb work from Robson-Kanu on the right wing almost carved out a third goal, cutting inside before teeing up Obita who drove at goal only for Etheridge to parry with a strong hand.
Williams rifled an effort on target from the edge of the box but Etheridge gathered it into his body without any problem - the Royals were looking comfortable in their lead though and Paul McShane came off the bench to replace Anton Ferdinand with 20 minutes to play.
O'Connor glanced a backwards header harmlessly over the bar, then at the other end Hector nearly fizzed a ball into the path of Vydra but the striker's flick struck the body of a Walsall defender and was cleared.
then got his name on the scoresheet when his first time pass looking to set Vydra away but instead was intercepted but passed back into the midfielder's path. With Vydra countering alongside him, Williams chose to go it alone and he scurried into the box and passed the ball under Etheridge for 3-0.
The Saddlers stopper injured himself in trying to save the strike and had to be replaced by Craig MacGillivray, while Ola John was introduced in place of Quinn for the hosts.
It should have been four with three minutes left. Hector's ball out to Robson-Kanu allowed the winger to deliver a dangerous cross into the box. Williams connected with it and it had beaten Etheridge and was bouncing in before Vydra turned it in on the goalline - from an offside position.
He made amends two minutes later! Gunter crossed from the right and Vydra was in the right place at the right time to power a wonderful downward header past MacGillivray and into the bottom right corner. 4-0!
The replacement keeper denied Norwood from a set piece and Williams with a right-footed drive and Reading looked for more, but the Royals had done enough to put their name into the hat for the last sixteen.
Full-time: Reading 4 Walsall 0
Reading: Al Habsi, Gunter, Obita, Ferdinand (McShane 69), Cooper, Norwood (c), Tshibola (Hector 10), Williams, Quinn (John 78), Robson-Kanu, Vydra.
Subs: Bond, Taylor, Piazon, Cox.
Walsall: Etheridge (MacGillivray 79), Demetriou, Taylor, O'Connor, Downing, Chambers (c) (Cook 64), Mantom, Forde, Henry, Sawyers, Bradshaw.
Subs: Preston, Flanagan, Morris, Kinsella, Lalkovic.
Yellow: Demetriou, O'Connor.
Referee: Mr Peter Bankes
Att: 13,367 (1,636 away)