George Pușcaș’ goal ensured that Reading broke a run of three consecutive home defeats as they beat Blackburn Rovers at the Madejski Stadium.
On his first start since November, Pușcaș fired in the only goal of the game in the 24th minute.
It was a backs-to-the-wall second half, but the Royals held out to earn their 15th clean sheet of the season to keep the gap to four points from sixth-placed Cardiff City who were also victorious this evening.
Andy Rinomhota has been an ever-present figure in Reading’s Championship campaign so far, featuring in all 33 league games, however he missed out through injury as Veljko Paunović was forced into a change.
George Pușcaș was selected to start as Paunović opted to start two strikers up-front with the Romanian forward partnering Lucas João.
Pușcaș has missed a large chunk of the season through injury, but did find the net when the Royals met Blackburn earlier in the season in a 4-2 triumph at Ewood Park.
The Royals had an early shot at goal as they tested Rovers’ keeper Thomas Kaminski after just three minutes.
Michael Olise found Andy Yiadom’s run down the right flank, and the right-back whipped in a teasing cross to the front post which was met by the leap of Pușcaș with a powerful header which was tipped over by Kaminski.
Blackburn began to grow into the game and almost punished Reading when Michael Morrison sloppily gave possession away with a loose pass, but Omar Richards made a vital block as Corry Evans looked to get a shot away.
Morrison and Liam Moore stayed switched on at the back to make consecutive blocks to prevent Joe Rothwell from testing Rafael Cabral.
Pușcaș was showing early signs of confidence with some nice touches and useful hold-up play on his return to the side and almost marked his return with an audacious strike from the halfway line.
The Romanian forward spotted Kaminski off his line, and from just inside the Blackburn half, he tried an outrageous effort which had the Rovers keeper scrambling back, but to his relief, the ball dropped onto the roof of the net.
Alfa Semedo picked up a booking for a tough tackle on Ben Brereton, and just moments later showed his quick feet as he breezed past three tackles to work space for a shot but his tame effort was easily held.
But the Royals were rewarded for their tenacious work to win the ball back in the Blackburn half which led to them taking the lead in the 24th minute.
Omar Richards’ persistent work saw him steal the ball from Harvey Elliott, and Lucas João unselfishly squared the ball to his strike partner Pușcaș, who took a touch to compose himself before he buried the ball into the corner.
Reading were dealing with the dangerous Blackburn forwards competently but were forced into a change when Morrison, who until now had played every minute of the league season, had to be replaced by Tom Holmes.
Brereton continued to provide the brightest moments for the visitors as they searched for an equaliser and he had the first effort on target for Blackburn but Rafael made a routine stop.
Adam Armstrong looked to use his blistering pace to hurt Reading on the counter-attack when Richards lost the ball on the halfway line, but Royals skipper Moore was brilliantly positioned to cover for teammate and win the ball back as the half ended with the hosts a goal to the good.
After dealing with a short corner routine from Blackburn, Ejaria sprinted into the Blackburn half and was cynically taken down by Amari’i Bell who received a yellow card.
Rovers boss Tony Mowbray made a double change just after an hour when Stewart Downing and Bradley Dack replaced Evans and Rothwell.
Paunovic made a switch to strengthen the defence as top scorer Lucas Joao was replaced by Tom McIntyre.
Reading were continually being pushed deeper into their half as Blackburn dominated proceedings in the second half in search of a way back into the contest, but without any reward.
The Royals were given some respite when Kaminski handled the ball just outside of is area, leading to a free-kick wide on the right.
Olise lifted the ball into the area but it was collected by the Blackburn keeper.
Rafael was called to the rescue to keep out Brereton’s effort, before Bell fired the ball behind into the side netting on the rebound.
It was a nervy end to the game and in the first minute of four added on, Armstrong had a huge chance to draw the hosts level. A cross was delivered into the middle and met by the striker on the volley, but he directed his effort inches wide of the post.
But the Royals held on after a whole half of Blackburn pressure to earn a vitally important three points.
Reading host struggling Sheffield Wednesday, who are second from bottom in the Championship table, on Saturday (3pm).
Reading: Rafael, Richards, Morrison, Moore (c), Yiadom, Laurent, Semedo, Ejaria, Olise, Joao, Puscas
Subs: Southwood, Esteves, Holmes, McIntyre, Tetek, Azeez, Camara, Aluko, Baldock
Blackburn: Kaminski, Nyambe, Lenihan (c), Harwood-Bellis, Bell, Trybull, Evans, Rothwell, Elliott, Brereton, Armstrong
Subs: Pears, Branthwaite, Douglas Bennett, Travis, Downing, Buckley, Dack, Dolan
Goals: Puscas 24′