Yakou Meite's first goal of the new campaign and a John Swift free-kick were enough to divide Reading and fellow Championship outfit Birmingham City, seeing the Royals through to the Second Round of the Carabao Cup.
- Meite strikes his first of the campaign to open the scoring
- Swift lashing in second-half free-kick to double the lead
- Royals through to Thursday's Second Round draw
Both strikes under the Madejski Stadium floodlights were teeming with quality - and gave the Royals deserved passage into the hat for the next round.
Meite's strike was fierce, finished with razor-sharp instinct, and Swift's set-piece - won through Sam Baldock's endeavour - swirled out of reach of Blues stopper Lee Camp.
There were five changes to the starting XI after the weekend’s trip to Nottingham Forest – including a debut for Sam Walker in goal, and a first start for Marc McNulty.
Liam Moore returned to the side and was handed the captain’s armband, while midfield duo John Swift and Leandro Bacuna were the other two drafted in to freshen things up.
For Garry Monk's Blues, there were wholesale changes - none of their starters were in in their XI when they were defeated in Middlesbrough last weekend.
There was plenty of vim and vigour about the way the Royals began the game, and a neat one-two in the second minute between McNulty and strike-partner Sam Baldock almost opened things up, but the latter was crowded out.
Soon after Mo Barrow, full of pace and trickery on the left, cut in to set up Leandro Bacuna - he got under his left-footed effort and left Camp untroubled.
And that early pressure finally told in the 11th minute, when Meite opened the scoring in emphatic fashion. The build-up was a sight to behold as Baldock caressed into McNulty's path, allowing him to flight a ball in behind for Meite to sprint onto... and he leathered in hard and low with his right boot.
After the goal, the game went into a bit of a lull - but Royals were keeping their visitors at bay. Gary Gardner picked up a booking when he chopped down former Villa teammate Bacuna in midfield, and a flashed cross by Barrow was just out of reach of the strikers in the box.
Gardner, wearing a numberless shirt after spilling blood on his original jersey, came closest to restoring parity for Blues with a long-range effort which lacked no power, only direction.
But the Royals suffered a set-back when Barrow picked up an injury midway through the first period; Pelle Clement was called into action from the bench.
Indeed Birmingham weren't shy when it came to a bit of roughhousing; Meite and Bacuna each needed treatment before the break after taking some heavy challenges.
Debutant Walker was forced into his first save of note in Reading colours when Connor Mahoney shifted his weight in on the left to make space and fired on target from a low angle; he got down quickly to his near post.
Reading wrestled back the initiative after a spell of pressure from the visitors and Baldock was visibly frustrated at himself for bending his effort off target from the edge of the box - he had done the hard work with a gut-busting solo run from deep.
An incisive, threaded ball by McNulty almost allowed the Royals to enter the interval with a two-goal advantage as Baldock tried to steal in behind; ultimately defender Marc Roberts just did enough.
Half-time: Reading 1-0 Birmingham City
Within four minutes of the restart, Meite was oh-so-close to doubling his and Reading's tally - only for a deflection to take his bending effort just a fraction off target. John Swift's brilliant footwork had set the move off through the middle before he played in Meite.
Mahoney was offering Birmingham's biggest threat, and the Bournemouth loanee was only a foot off target when he shimmied inside off the right flank and pulled the trigger on a powerful left-footer just before the hour mark.
And then Viv Solomon-Otobar was wasteful as Wes Harding's cross from the byline was turned over from six yards - Andy Yiadom did just enough to make the chance difficult in the centre.
It could - and perhaps should - have been a first goal in the hoops for Baldock when Meite slipped in McNulty on the left, allowing the Scotsman to square for his strike-partner all alone in the middle... but he couldn't quite sort out his feet out in time to convert.
However it Baldock helped to create Reading's second - it was his quick feet on the edge of the area which drew a free-kick, from which the Blues would be made to pay. Swift stepped up and lashed his effort past the wall and beyond the outstretched dive of Camp.
John O'Shea replaced the lively Meite for a debut in the closing stages; the scoreline could have been more emphatic if Yiadom had kept his powerful effort down as he arrived in support of the attack. Indeed, it could have been a nervy end had Walker not got down to block out a close-range shot from sub Che Adams, and then Beryly Lubala on a late break.
A perfect with a bit of swagger, cutting edge... a couple of goals to show for it and a place in the next round!
Full-time: Reading 2-0 Birmingham City
Reading: Walker, Yiadom, Blackett, Moore (c), Ilori, Bacuna (Rinomhota 73), Swift, Meite (O'Shea 82), Barrow (Clement 26), McNulty, Baldock.
Unused subs: Mannone, Böðvarsson, Richards, Kelly.
Goals: Meite 11, Swift 72.
Birmingham City: Camp, Roberts, Harding, Dacres-Cogley, Scarr, G.Gardner (Lakin 73), Kieftenbeld (c), Mahoney (Jota 67), Lubala, Solomon-Otabor, Bogle (Adams 67).
Unused subs: Trueman, Ndoye, Seddon, Maghoma.
Yellow: G.Gardner, Dacres-Cogley.
Attendance: 6,934 (1,021 away)
Referee: Mr D Whitestone