Reading 1-1 Stoke City
Stoke 1 (Kightly 35)
An ice cool penalty from Adam Le Fondre rescued a point for the Royals on the opening day of the Barclays Premier League.
Brian McDermott's men trailed from the 35th minute, after Michael Kightly's deflected shot had squirmed under the body of Adam Federici.
The Potters were resilient at the back and for a long time it seemed as if the home side were to be given a tough introduction into life in the top flight, but with two minutes left in the game the day was saved.
Substitute Garath McCleary's intricate build up play with Le Fondre resulted in the former tumbling in the box - and after Dean Whitehead received his marching orders, 'Alfie' stepped up to drill his spot kick home.
Only 37 more games to go...
Federici; Gunter, Harte, Gorkss, Pearce; Guthrie, Leigertwood, McAnuff (c), Robson-Kanu (McCleary 67); Le Fondre, Pogrebnyak (Hunt 76)
Subs not used: McCarthy, Cummings, Mariappa, Tabb, Church,
Booked: Gorkss (foul 44) Leigertwood (foul 73)
Begovic, Wilson, Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Whelan (Palacios 85), Whitehead, Kightly (Jerome 75), Etherington (Delap 80), Crouch, Walters
Subs not used: Sorensen, Ness, , Shotton, Jones
Booked: Wilkinson (time wasting 87) Palacios (foul 90) Begovic (time wasting 90)
Red Card: Wilkinson (second yellow)
Attendance: 23,973 (2,164)
It was an atmosphere to savour at Madejski Stadium as the Premier League returned to Berkshire - and the Royals fans responded in style with a crescendo of noise before kick-off.
The opening stages were tentative, with both sides seemingly finding their feet again as the campaign began in earnest - though Brian McDermott's men enjoye the lion's share of possession in the opening ten minutes.
The first effort of any note came twenty minutes in - as Jon Walters cracked a short over the bar from distance, not really coming close to troubling Federici.
Reading responded five minutes later, as Guthrie floated a corner over from the right - which Kaspars Gorkss headed wide.
At the other end Walters almost showed the giant Latvian how it was done, but although closer - his header from Kightly's cross still crept inches past the post.
The visitors were getting into their rhythm more as the half wore on - as Walters tested Federici shortly afterwards from Peter Crouch's knockdown.
Indeed the next attack would yield the first goal for the Potters. A bouncing ball fell for Kightly, who saw his shot take a deflection to agonisingly drift past Federici at the Australian's near post.
The Royals looked to respond, as Le Fondre flashed a snap shot wide from the right of the box - and just before the break Reading's number 9 leapt high to nod wide from Hal Robson-Kanu's centre.
The second half kicked off with an early, half-hearted penalty shout for Brian McDermott's men as Pogrebnyak tumbled in the area - only to see referee Kevin Friend wave away all appeals.
Peter Crouch was causing problems eight minutes in as his looping header caused the Royals defence to scramble desperately to get the ball away - a feat which they achieved thanks to a top drawer block from Gorkss.
Ian Harte was presented with his first real opportunity at testing Begovic with a trademark set piece on the hour mark, but in reality the angle was extremely tight - and his fizzing shot was swallowed up by the City wall.
If the shout for a spot kick early in the second period was weak, the roar of outrage certainly turned up a notch with 63 minutes on the clock as Pogrebnyak tumbled once more in the box - but to the dismay of the Russian international, once again play was waved on.
Hearts were in mouths at the other end five minutes later, as a brief goalmouth scramble seemed to signal danger - before the experienced head of Harte hooked away.
Substitute Garath McCleary was lively as he entered the fray, slipping through Pogrebnyak on the right of the area, wgiaw shot was blocked for a corner. The resulting set piece saw the Russian targetman force a save from Begovic after a clever knock back from Alex Pearce.
The Academy product was again causing problems from set pieces after 80 minute, but as he tussled at the far post could only head into the side netting with Begovic flapping.
Then, with just two minutes left on the clock - the game sprung into life once more. Some intricate build up play from Le Fondre and McCleary led to the latter feeling the weight of Dean Whitehead's challenge - and third time lucky, the referee pointed to the spot.
Whitehead received his second yellow card and marching orders - and Le Fondre stepped up with the coolest of heads to squeeze his penalty home.
Madejski Stadium went wild - and the Royals went for the kill.
Palacios brought down Guthrie on the edge of the box, in a perfect spot for Harte to crash in an effort from 25 yards - but on this occasion the Irishman's shot was a whisker over the bar.
Stoke players were booked for time wasting at the death as the Potters looked to cling on to a point, and in the a share of the spoils was what both sides had to settle for.
If this is the type of drama we can expect every week - then hold on to your hats.