A late winner from Ryan Hedges gave promotion-chasing Blackburn a vital 2-1 over Reading in the Championship.
It looked set to be a routine win once Ben Brereton Diaz’s 13th goal of the campaign gave Rovers a second-minute lead and they created countless chances but found goalkeeper Joe Lumley in inspired form.
They paid for that profligacy when Cesare Casadei struck his first senior goal in the 68th minute but the Royals could not cope with the Blackburn pressure and Hedges’ smart finish eight minutes from time secured a fourth successive home win and crucial points in the race for the top six.
Reading’s fourth successive defeat was compounded when Mamadou Loum was sent off for headbutting Sam Gallagher.
It took less than two minutes for Reading’s porous defence to be breached as Rovers broke from a Royals corner and Sorba Thomas’ cross was deflected into the path of Brereton Diaz who steadied himself before stroking a pinpoint shot effortlessly into the bottom right corner from just outside the area.
Reading continued to look vulnerable and Lumley parried a Thomas effort before his 35th-minute cross was headed over by Gallagher.
Casadei almost produced an equaliser when his long-range piledriver swirled in the air and forced Aynsley Pears into an improvised parry away.
Lumley’s blushes were spared five minutes before the break when his clearance struck Sammie Szmodics but the ball struck the post before the fortunate keeper gathered.
Joe Rankin-Costello volleyed over from inside the area just before the break as Rovers hunted that killer second.
Brereton Diaz went close to getting it just after the interval when he controlled a Rankin-Costello shot and let fly from close range but Amadou Mbengue produced a stunning goal-saving block.
Thomas saw a shot parried by Lumley before Brereton Diaz chested down for Gallagher, whose shot from 12 yards out deflected agonisingly over.
A frantic few minutes midway through the half saw Lumley make a stunning double save, denying Brereton Diaz from close range and reacting to block a Thomas follow-up, before the Royals went up the other end and Mbengue crossed for Shane Long, whose far post header was brilliantly palmed away by Pears.
Reading did end their 2023 away goal drought in the 68th minute when Lucas Joao and Casadei combined for the latter to lash home a stunning equaliser from 25 yards.
Rovers responded though and sent the home fans into raptures in the 82nd minute when Hedges ran on to Gallagher’s backheel to brilliantly place his winner into the bottom corner.
Loum saw red three minutes later for needlessly headbutting Gallagher and any hopes of a Reading equaliser went with him.