09:45PM, Tuesday 16 May 2017
Just one game separates Reading from the Premier League after they beat Fulham 1-0 at the Madejski Stadium to book their place in the Championship play-off final.
A second-half Yann Kermorgant penalty sealed a 2-1 aggregate win for the Royals on a lively night in Berkshire.
Reading, buoyed by a fervent home support, started the brighter of the two sides and nearly took the lead in the 13th minute when Yann Kermorgant saw his low drive tipped wide by Marcus Bettinelli.
Minutes later, Reading stopper Ali Al-Habsi had to pull off a fine save of his own as he kept out a low drive from the marauding Ryan Fredericks.
With the visitors growing in confidence and dangerman Tom Cairney waltzing around the pitch, orchestrating play as he so often does, the hosts looked under pressure.
And they almost fell behind in the 27th minute when Cairney saw his curling free-kick beat the Reading wall only for the Omani stopper to claw it out before saving Sone Aluko’s follow-up.
The Royals emerged from the half-time revitalised, though, and took the lead in the tie in the 49th minute after referee Martin Atkinson awarded a penalty after Tomas Kalas handled.
Kermorgant, who famously missed from the spot for Leicester in the Championship play-off semi-final of 2010, put his demons to rest as he slammed the ball past Bettinelli.
His strike partner Lewis Grabban nearly doubled Reading’s lead moments later but he saw his low drive kept out.
With the game continuing to lurch from end to end, gasps went up as Fredericks once again got in down the right-hand side but his squared ball for substitute Lucas Piazon was deflected wide.
As Fulham pushed forward, the Royals had chances to extend their lead with Kermorgant curling over when he was well-placed on the edge of the area.
Then came the moment that might well have sealed Reading’s place in the richest game in football.
Sone Aluko bamboozled Joey Van Den Berg on the right-hand touchline before driving into the area and leaving Kevin McDonald with the goal gaping.
But Al-Habsi, so often called upon in Reading’s time of need, tipped the ball over the bar.
The hosts had one last scare as Chris Martin rose unchallenged in the dying moments but could only head wide, with referee Martin Atkinson's full-time whistle moments later leading to fans streaming onto the pitch.
Reading will now face either Sheffield Wednesday or Huddersfield Town for a place in the Premier League.
Reading: Al-Habsi, Gunter, Van Den Berg, Evans, Swift (Kelly 75), Moore, Kermorgant (Mendes 89), Ilori, Williams, Blackett (McCleary 67), Grabban
Fulham: Bettinelli, Fredericks, Malone (Martin 73), McDonald, Kebano (Piazon 58), Cairney, Ayite (Seesegnon 58), Ream, Johansen, Aluko, Kalas
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