An injury time strike from George Evans sealed a hard-fought away victory for Jaap Stam's Royals this afternoon as Blackburn twice came from behind but came away with nothing from an Ewood Park encounter that ended 3-2 in Reading's favour.
Twice Reading led through Samuel's superb first half finish and then Liam Moore's first goal for the club following up Liam Kelly's crossbar shuddering effort from range. But twice Rovers replied, with a close range header from Danny Graham and a downward second half effort from Wes Brown.
But it took a third goal, scored in injury time, to seal victory - a quick Gunter throw releasing McCleary down the right and he beat his man and cut the ball back for Evans who rifled low past Steele to fire home the winner!
An unchanged side started the game at Ewood Park, manager Jaap Stam naming the same eleven and the same substitutes bench that took part in a 2-0 defeat at Elland Road in midweek. Former Royal Hope Akpan started for Owen Coyle's men meanwhile, and Wes Brown debuted at the back for Rovers against a team managed by his former Manchester United colleague.
Reading began well, keeping possession in the opening stages and Beerens' deep cross was just too long for McCleary to connect with inside the Rovers box. And after five minutes Samuel won a corner on the right which McCleary fed into the box low, Samuel got on the end of it and tried a first time shot but sliced his effort wide.
The first keeper to be called into action though was Ali Al Habsi who had to parry a swerving 25 yard shot from Rovers skipper Jason Lowe. He punched the resulting corner clear too and Reading survived an early scare.
Beerens caused some concern for the hosts down the left next, turning inside his man to dink a cross into the feet of Kelly on the edge of the box who scuffed a first time volley wide of the left post. At the other end, a nice piece of skill from Emnes opened up space for him to float a ball into the path of the onside Conway - but it skipped off the surface away from the Rovers midfielder.
Joey van den Berg saw a shot blocked next, the ball spiralling behind for a corner kick that Rovers could only half clear to McShane, who controlled it on his chest then half-volleyed over under pressure from 12 yards out.
Midway through the half, Liam Kelly turned inside his own half and delivered a sublime ball over the top for McCleary to race onto. He brought the ball down well with his first touch but saw a left-footed shot saved by the body of Jason Steele in the Rovers goal.
A slip from Moore then almost handed Blackburn the opening goal - Emnes' pressure presented Graham with the ball and a route to goal, but McShane got back in to make the shot difficult and Al Habsi palmed his effort behind for a corner.
On the half hour, Emnes sprung the offside trap to get into a good position inside the Reading box, but he chose to cross instead of shoot and the Royals hacked the ball clear.
Then a moment later, Reading took the lead. McCleary scurried inside and played a lovely reverse pass into the clever run of Samuel, who beat his man to the ball and rifled low inside Steele's near post for 1-0. A fabulous finish from the Academy graduate had handed Jaap Stam's men the lead at Ewood.
Rovers nearly responded when Conway's cross from the right was met by Graham in the middle, but thankfully his header was straight at Al Habsi in the Royals goal who gathered the ball in on the bounce.
And the crossbar came to Reading's rescue soon after. A long ball from the back was flicked on to Graham who nodded it down for Emnes on the run and he smashed a fierce first time effort past Al Habsi and off the top of the goal frame.
And it should have been 1-1 a minute later. Graham wrestled his way past McShane and into the box, but his shot was saved by Al Habsi. It fell out to Emnes in lots of space in a central position and he placed a shot past Al Habsi only to see Moore head it off his goalline.
It was 1-1 though before the whistle could sound. The resultant corner was swung into the Reading box and Al Habsi was at full stretch to palm away a powerful header from Lenihan, but Graham was on hand to nod into the top left corner from a yard out. Appeals for offside went unheard and the hosts had equalised.
Half-time: Blackburn 1-1 Reading
An early Chris Gunter cross was swept into the feet of Beerens beyond the far post and he tried to tee up Van den Berg racing onto it, but the ball was played just behind his Dutch compatriot and Rovers could boot the ball clear.
Rovers were causing problems for the Royals in the air and Graham won a header on the edge of the six yard box only to direct his effort straight at Al Habsi to clung onto it on his goalline. Moments later, Emnes tried to do better from almost an identical position but he mis-timed his header and it was easy for Al Habsi.
Fantastic work by Liam Kelly saw him ride three challenges before setting McCleary away down the right, but the winger's cross looking for Samuel was headed away at the far post as Reading sought to retake the lead.
And on the hour, Reading made it 2-1. Beerens' cross from the left wasn't cleared and it dropped to Kelly 22 yards out. He took aim and thundered a shot past Steele and against the underside of the crossbar. It may have dropped over the line, but the officials hadn't signalled a goal until Moore charged in to chest it home from yards out.
Owen Coyle's men looked dangerous every time the ball was played into the box though and after Graham had seen another header turned wide by Al Habsi, Brown rose to power a downward header into the bottom left corner to level for the home side once more.
Entering the last ten minutes, all was to play for and Steele did well to shovel a low Beerens drive around his right post and prevent the away side taking the lead for a third time.
Next, Kelly delivered a cross from the right that Kermorgant controlled but he tried to back heel it into the feet of Evans only for the pass to take the midfielder too wide and the chance had gone.
Reading were finishing the stronger though and in the first minute of injury time, George Evans scored our third. A quickly taken throw in from Gunter set McCleary away down the right flank and he beat his man and scampered into the box before cutting the ball back perfectly for the arriving Evans. He struck it first time, right-footed, low and into the bottom left corner to make it 3-2.
The added height of Jake Cooper was introduced to help Reading defend their lead in the final stages and they did so well, holding on this time to take all three points and go into the festive period with an away win behind them!
Full-time: Blackburn 2-3 Reading
Blackburn: Steele, Williams, Lowe (c), Marshall, Brown, Lenihan, Akpan (Nyambe 85), Conway, Gallagher, Graham, Emnes.
Subs: Raya, Feeney, Byrne, Bennett, Wharton, Stokes.
Goals: Graham (44), Brown (72)
Reading: Al-Habsi, Gunter, Blackett, McShane (c), L.Moore, Van den Berg, Kelly (Cooper 90), Evans, Beerens, McCleary, Samuel (Kermorgant 59).
Subs: S.Moore, Watson, Wieser, Harriott, Meite.
Goals: Samuel (31), Moore (60), Evans (90)
Att: 10,982 (370 away)