Second half spotkick denies RoyalsReading slipped to a slender away defeat at Deepdale as, at the end of a relatively even and open affair, the sides were separated by a second half spotkick from Joe Garner.
Under the interim guidance of Martin Kuhl, the Royals produced some neat and fluid attacking play in the first half to create good opportunities for Blackman, Vydra and Williams amongst others, but Preston's Adam Reach was denied a spectacular opener by the woodwork before half-time and the fixture was decided by a penalty won and converted by Garner early after the restart.
Interim manager Martin Kuhl made three changes to the side that lost at QPR, bringing in Jonathan Bond in goal, reintroducing captain Paul McShane at the back, whilst also handing a fit again Hal Robson-Kanu his first start since a 2-0 home win over Middlesbrough at the start of October. He also gave under-18s midfielder Josh Barrett a place on the bench, the youngster's first involvement in first team football.
Five minutes into the game and Reading worked the first opportunity in front of goal. A quick throw was hurled into the chest of Blackman who turned nicely before feeding Gunter in space on the right. He whipped a cross into the box, but with Vydra lurking in the middle a Preston head did enough to glance it clear.
Minutes later though, Preston nearly took the lead. A long ball forward was nodded down to Adam Reach who took aim from range and clattered a right-footed effort past the dive of a helpless Bond and against the inside of the right post.
With ten minutes played, chances at both ends. First Norwood intercepted a pass in midfield and quickly fed the ball forward into Vydra down the left. He looked up and tried to find Blackman but the ball was cut out before it could find the Royals forward in space on the edge of the box. Then North End broke at pace and it took a good piece of defending from McShane to deny the home side a shot at goal.
Moments later, Robson-Kanu threaded a lovely ball into the feet of Vydra who was in on goal. But the offside flag was raised as he bore down on Jordan Pickford.
Vydra's movement was causing the home side some concern. He first found space down the left to fizz a cross into the box which Preston eventually managed to handle after a little bit of pinball. Then he was inches away from getting on the end of a neatly threaded ball through the Preston defence from Garath McCleary - only for Pickford to slide out to gather the ball at Vydra's feet.
Daniel Johnson struck an effort from the edge of the box that deflected wide off a Preston body at the other end, and the chances kept coming. Next it was Reading on the break through McCleary who picked out Vydra in the middle with a floated cross - but the Czech striker couldn't get enough power on his header to trouble Pickford.
On the half hour mark, Robson-Kanu won a free kick which Blackman drilled goalwards. A slight deflection took it skimming past the right post and behind for a corner which the hosts cleared comfortably.
Preston almost capitalised on a miscommunication at the back from the Royals when a mix up between Ferdinand and Bond saw the goalkeeper clear the ball against his defender. But the cool head of Ferdinand nodded the ball back into the arms of Bond before the home side could take advantage.
Then as half time approached, Vydra turned his man well to collect a Williams pass and his shot ricocheted off a North End body and slid behind for a corner.
Half-time: Preston 0 Reading 0
The second half started with some desperate defending from the Royals. A move which began with a low cross from the right saw a shot from close range blocked by a combination of defenders and then saved with a fantastic low stop from Bond, down well to his left to push Adam Reach's effort around his post despite being unsighted in a crowded box.
And the deadlock was broken from the penalty spot soon after. McShane raced to get in front of Joe Garner to try to clear the early danger from a direct ball down the left, but the Preston man did enough to force McShane into a mistake and scurried in behind the back line to collect the loose ball. Darting into the box, McShane tangled with him as he looked to pull the trigger and the referee pointed to the spot. Garner himself stroked the ball home from the spot, sending Bond the wrong way.
Kuhl made an early change, bringing Ola John on for Robson-Kanu and John collected a one-two from Blackman to get into the box only for his shot to be charged down before it could force Pickford into a save.
Norwood arrowed over as Reading looked to respond immediately. Then just after the hour, Blackman spurned a great chance to level when Williams played him in on goal and, reaching the ball ahead of the onrushing Pickford, he lashed an effort just over the bar with his left foot.
Garner came close to scoring a second when a floated free kick was met by the midfielder's head but he could only direct the effort the wrong side of the left upright to Reading's relief.
With 20 minutes left, Vydra let rip with a powerfully driven effort from outside the area that Pickford did well to deflect wide. The home side continued to pose a threat, Marnick Vermijl coming close with an effort that fizzed off the outside of his boot and just wide of the far post.
As the bitter cold set in at Deepdale, the Royals lost some of their fluency, but Williams tested Pickford's handling with a shot on the turn from the edge of the area.
Time was running out for the Royals and after half an appeal for a penalty from the lively Vydra and three additional minutes added at the end of the ninety, Preston recorded their second win on the spin.
Full-time: Preston 1 Reading 0
Preston: Pickford, Vermijl, Cunningham, Clarke (c), Johnson, Gallagher (Welsh 85), Browne, Huntington, Reach, Garner, Keane.
Subs: Kirkland, Wright, Kilkenny, Doyle, Woods, Hugill.
Reading: Bond, Gunter, A Taylor, McShane (c), Ferdinand, Norwood, Williams, McCleary (Fernandez 75), Robson-Kanu (John 54), Blackman, Vydra.
Subs: Al Habsi, Cooper, Hector, Hurtado, Barrett.
Yellow: McCleary, McShane
Referee: Mr G Eltringham
Att: 10,649 (506 away)