LEEDS United snatched a late winner as Jack Harrison headed in an 87th minute winner to deny Reading a point and condemn them to their second consecutive defeat.
The Royals have now lost their last two games under Mark Bowen having gone four games unbeaten prior to the international break.
Bowen’s side defended resolutely to nullify Leeds attacking threat and limit them to just a few chances, however Harrison arrived late at the back post to steal all three points for the visitors.
Mark Bowen made two changes from Reading’s defeat against Brentford, with Chris Gunter coming in at right wing back to make his first appearance of the season, replacing the suspended Andy Yiadom. Meanwhile, Yakou Meite started up front alongside George Puscas in place of the injured Sam Baldock.
Reading- who were looking to make it four consecutive home wins for the first time since April 2017- made a fast start as they countered from a Leeds corner, with Yakou Meite’s low cross falling inches away from the incoming Puscas after the Ivorian had made good ground to burst down the right wing.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side showed their accomplished ability on the ball, controlling much of the possession but they struggled to break down the Royals defence, managing zero shots on target in the first half despite having 70% of the ball.
The Madejski Stadium broke into a warm applause in the 19th minute to honour Reading fan Ryan Duval, who sadly passed away last week.
The hosts looked to break forward quickly as Ovie Ejaria showcased his silky footwork on several occasions throughout the half to buy the Royals some valuable time on the ball. Ejaria tricked his way brilliantly into the box past three Leeds defenders but his cross couldn’t find a teammate.
The visitors picked up the first caution of the match after Luke Ayling cynically brought down Meite, while Omar Richards followed suit with a booking just minutes later.
It was Meite who had the best chance of the half with a free header from John Swift’s corner, but goalkeeper Kiko Casilla kept it out as the sides went in level at the break.
Leeds had a shout for a penalty early in the second half when Ayling went down under a challenge, but too easily for the ref’s liking as he waved play on.
Patrick Bamford had a decent chance chance to put Leeds in front as a dangerous whipped cross came into his path but the awkward bounce meant he could only chest the ball over the crossbar.
Stuart Dallas came inches away from giving Leeds the breakthrough as his thunderous strike from 25 yards out crashed back off the crossbar, much to Rafael and Reading’s relief.
It was then Reading’s turn to attack as Meite fell down in the box before Michael Morrison steered an effort over the bar from close range.
Bowen made his first change of the night in the 70th minute, with Puscas being replaced by Lucas Boye.
Leeds then carved out another opening as a guided long ball into the box was met by Dallas who could only find the side netting with his volley.
Reading contained the Leeds pressure as the visitors continued to press for a late winner, but failed to take advantage from set pieces despite having 11 corners.
Danny Loader replaced Meite after a hard fought shift from the Ivorian with five minutes of normal time remaining in the contest.
Leeds made the breakthrough in the 87th minute as Harrison arrived at the back post to meet Helder Costa’s deep cross and head past Rafael to send the away fans into pandemonium.
United’s late winner sees them climb up to the summit of the Championship table while Reading remain in 18th. The Royals travel to face struggling Wigan Athletic on Saturday.
Reading: Rafael, Gunter, Miazga, Morrison, Moore, Richards, Swift, Rinomhota, Ejaria, Meite. Puscas.
Subs: Walker, McCleary, Loader, Boye, Howe, Blackett, Pele.
Leeds: Casilla, Cooper, White, Ayling, Roberts, Klich, Phillips, Dallas, Hernandez, Harrison, Bamford.
Subs: Meslier, Douglas, Alioski, Helder Costa, Beradi, Schackleton, Clarke.