Reading lost out 3-1 to promotion chasers Sheffield United on a frostbitten night at Madejski Stadium.
- Billy Sharp puts visitors ahead early on
- Mark Duffy doubles the deficit before the break with top-corner drive
- Richards replies for the Royals early in the second half
- Bacuna has penalty saved by Moore, before Sharp scored controversial third goal
The Royals were forced into an early change as Garath McCleary fell awkwardly in the United box, having to be replaced by Omar Richards after just six minutes.
There was snow on the pitch in RG2 on Tuesday evening, and both teams appeared to struggle to adapt to the conditions early on.
Liam Moore was caught in possession on the edge of the area, leaving Leon Clarke through on goal. He only had Vito Mannone to beat, but he dragged his left-footed shot wide in a big let-off for the Royals.
With 10 minutes gone, the visitors had the lead. Clarke found space on the left to drive on towards the by-line. His cross found former Royal Billy Sharp six yards out, his initial effort was saved by Mannone but he fired in the rebound from close range.
After a period of sustained pressure from United, the Royals forced a corner. Liam Kelly teed it up, the ball was half-cleared and Joey van den Berg laid off for Pelle Clement to shoot - his effort forcing a low save from Jamal Blackman.
Reading were unable to gain much joy against the high-pressing Blades in the first half, and from a United corner, they played short and squared to Lee Evans, whose powerful shot cleared the upright.
A bizarre turn of events followed with both striker, Leon Clarke and goalkeeper, Jamal Blackman receiving treatment for two different injuries - both having to be substituted at the same time.
The Blades' second came out of the blue. The visitors had the ball on the left wing, which was picked up by Mark Duffy 25 yards out, who rifled a wonderstrike into the top right hand corner - threading the eye of a needle to beat Mannone and doubling the deficit for the Royals just before half-time.
Half time | Reading 0-2 Sheffield United
The second period started with the Royals coming out with a renewed vigour, and only five minutes passed before they had a lifeline.
Kelly was brought down 25 yards out, Leandro Bacuna struck the resulting free-kick sweetly which substitute goalkeeper Moore could only save into the path of Richards to score his second goal in three games - powering into the roof of the net from close range.
The Blades had a good chance to restore the two-goal advantage soon after, with goalscorer Duffy stepping up for a free-kick from the edge of the Royals' area. His shot was tame, though, and Mannone was equal to the danger.
On the hour mark, Reading had a penalty. Kelly picked up a through-ball from Richards, driving into the area and getting blocked off by his marker, with the referee pointing to the spot.
Bacuna stepped up and powered towards the right hand corner, but Moore guessed the right way and parried his spot kick around the post.
A piece of gamesmanship had the visitors restore their advantage moments after, with Chris Gunter deliberately allowing the ball to go out of play for an injury to Liam Moore, in which he got back up before receiving treatment.
When the ball was thrown back in towards the Reading goal, Sharp sprinted and got onto the loose ball, nipping in behind and scoring past a furious Royals defence - who had been expecting the ball back after deliberately allowing the ball out of play beforehand.
It could have been four for United after Sharp flicked on from a goal-kick into the path of sub Clayton Donaldson, who clipped past the on-rushing Mannone, but he narrowed the angle well and Donaldson's effort bounced wide.
The Royals were still pushing to get back into the game, though, with Martin being played in, shooting on the turn but inches wide of the right hand post.
However, the visitors ran the clock down and condemned the Royals to defeat on a freezing cold night in RG2.
Full time | Reading 1-3 Sheffield United
Reading: Mannone, Gunter, Ilori (Smith 74), Moore, Bacuna (Evans 68), Van den Berg, Kelly, Clement, McCleary (Richards 6), Martin, Böðvarsson.
Subs: Jaakkola, Edwards, Barrow, Blackett.
Goals: Richards 51
Yellow: Van den Berg, Clement
Sheffield United: Blackman (Moore 34), Baldock, Stevens, Fleck, O'Connell, Basham, Clarke (Donaldson 34), Sharp (c), Stearman, L Evans, Duffy (Leonard 82).
Subs: Lundstram, Lafferty, Holmes, C Evans.
Goals: Sharp 11, 64; Duffy 44
Referee: Mr A Davies
Attendance: 6,769 (730 visiting)