Goals from Yann Kermorgant, Garath McCleary and Callum Harriott saw Reading earn a Boxing Day win over ten man Norwich City this afternoon, keeping the Royals in third with a victory in our penultimate fixture of 2016.
Kermorgant had given the home side a Boxing Day lead when he glanced home Liam Kelly's inswinging corner, but Norwich were level when Nelson Oliveira hammered high past Al Habsi following good work from Jacob Murphy down the right.
But Reading retook the lead in dramatic circumstances soon after. Jonny Howson handballed on the goalline to stop Kermorgant's powerful header flying in and the City skipper saw red. Kermorgant's penalty struck the crossbar but McCleary followed up with a superb header to restore the home side's lead. And Callum Harriott came off the bench to add a spectacular third in injury time, to a 21,180 strong crowd's delight.
Yann Kermorgant and Danny Williams came back into Jaap Stam's starting eleven, with Dom Samuel and George Evans dropping to the bench. John Swift, meanwhile, was handed a place on the substitutes bench after his lengthy injury absence.
The first chance fell the home side's way, Beerens bending a ball into Kermorgant down the right and the striker playing it early into the middle for Kelly who was just beaten to the ball by a backtracking Norwich defender.
Norwich soon found their stride though and Alex Tettey tested Ali Al Habsi's handling with 18 minutes gone, scuttling forward and driving low and left-footed but harmlessly into the Royals keeper's arms.
Paul McShane injured his arm in an early collision inside the Royals box but was able to continue, yet Graham Dorrans was replaced by Martin Olsson midway through the half after injuring his ankle.
Naismith nearly capitalised on a weak headed clearance when he hooked the ball just wide of the bottom left corner with a well-struck effort, then at the other end Kermorgant fed McCleary in behind but the winger's deflected cross bounced up kindly for Ruddy in the City goal.
McCleary got in behind the City line again but his pull back fell between Williams and Kermorgant and the latter's dinked cross towards Beerens was read and cut out with cushioned header back to Ruddy.
As Reading's pressure paid off when they broke the deadlock with eight minutes of the half left. Beerens won a free kick on the left, Kelly delivered a sumptuous inswinging set piece and Kermorgant glanced the ball home at the near post.
The Royals looked for a second. Kelly's run down the left saw him find Beerens on the edge of the box and the winger took aim but scuffed a right-footed drive wide. Alex Neil's men meanwhile saw the last chance of the 45 fly over the crossbar from the boot of Jacob Murphy.
But in three minutes of injury time, the Canaries had a chance to level when an inswinging free kick wasn't cleared far enough and Howson tried to force a shot through a crowd of Royals bodies from 10 yards out. Tyler Blackett got the telling block in and Reading took a lead into the break.
Half-time: Reading 1-0 Norwich
The visitors began the second half well. First Bassong won a header to send an inswinging cross goalwards, but Al Habsi smothered it into his body on the goalline. Then, Oliveira sped away from everyone down the left. Cutting into the penalty box, he put a dangerous cross-shot in that flashed across the Royals' goalmouth and skidded wide and behind for a goal kick.
Moore was needed to mop up at the back when Pinto raced into the area from the right flank. But Kermorgant came within a whisker of scoring a stunning second - McCleary scuttled across the edge of the City box and passed the ball into the striker who smashed a first time effort inches over the bar.
Kermorgant came even closer to a second goal moments later when McCleary's floated corner was met by the forward's forehead and a fine save from Ruddy clawed the ball off the goalline at the last.
Norwich were pressing for an equaliser though and on the hour mark it came. Murphy found some space down the right side of the box, pulled the ball back for Oliveira who hammered the ball high past Al Habsi from 15 yards out.
It could have been 1-2 soon after when Al Habsi had to keep out low Oliveira drive arrowed in towards his near post. And City were on top when a lofted cross from the right was met by Ryan Bennett at the far post but he could only find side netting.
At the other end, McCleary swept a deep cross to Beerens who touched it back for Kermorgant to volley goalwards, but it deflected wide for a corner.
From the resultant corner though, the game saw drama of the highest order. Kelly's delivery was met by Kermorgant's head and Pinto saved the striker's goalbound effort on the goalline with his hand. The referee brought his red card out of his pocket and reduced City to ten men, pointing to the spot for a penalty just before Paul McShane bundled the loose ball home from a yard out.
So a penalty was decided upon and Kermorgant stepped up, chipping the ball past the diving Ruddy but against the crossbar. Brilliantly McCleary thundered in to head home the rebound, placing a superb header into the bottom right corner to make amends for the miss.
It could have been 3-1 soon after when McCleary played a long ball forward, Kermorgant won it in the air and nodded it into the path of Kelly. The Academy graduate waited for it to drop, toed it over the defender to set up a left-footed half-volley, but sliced agonisingly wide.
Next to take aim was Gunter in an advanced position who collected McCleary's blocked cross and curled a left-footed effort just wide of the left upright. City weren't finished though and Alex Neil brought on Wes Hoolahan and Cameron Jerome in search of a second equaliser, and Al Habsi was down well to save a skidding effort from Pinto late one.
A great parrying save from Ruddy denied McCleary a breakaway goal with three minutes left on the clock. But in injury time it was 3-1! Substitute John Swift set substitute Callum Harriott scurrying into space down the left, he took the ball into the box and arrowed a wonderful shot into the top left corner to kill the game off once and for all.
Full-time: Reading 3-1 Norwich
Reading: Al-Habsi, Gunter, Blackett, McShane (c), L.Moore, Van den Berg (Evans 65), Kelly (Swift 77), Williams, Beerens (Harriott 86), McCleary, Kermorgant.
Subs: S.Moore, Watson, Cooper, Samuel.
Goals: Kermorgant (37), McCleary (67), Harriott (90)
Yellow: Van den Berg
Norwich: Ruddy, Brady, Bassong, Bennett, Pinto, Tettey, Oliveira (Jerome 70), Howson, Dorrans (Olsson 25), Naismith (Hoolahan 70), Murphy.
Subs: McGovern, Martin, Klose, Pritchard.
Goals: Oliveira (61)
Yellow: Tettey, Pinto
Att: 21,180 (1,483 away)