Lucas Joao's second half header was enough to earn Reading successive home wins for the first time since September toincrease the gap between themselves and the relegation zone to eight points, with a 2-1 win over Stoke City.

Paul Ince's men took the lead early on through Michael Morrison but were pegged back on the stroke of half time through Romaine Sawyers. 

Despite coming off second best for most of the second half, Joao's header was enough to make it three matches unbeaten.

Ince was forced to make one change from the side that drew 1-1 with Barnsley on Saturday, with Tom Ince ineligible to play against his parent club, so Junior Hoilett came in out wide.

Reading started the match fast, with danger man Hoilett creating chances for his teammates right from the offset. It took five minutes for the first effort as the Canadian drifted a cross toward Lucas Joao. It evaded the Angola striker but fell for Ovie Ejaria, who twisted and turned but fired wide, courtesy of a Stoke block. From the resulting corner, Tom McIntyre rose highest but powered his effort over the crossbar. The Hoilet-Ejaria combination almost worked again moments later, with the former Blackburn Rovers winger firing a low cross into the front post, only for the oncoming Ejaria to mistime the strike.

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It would take just two more minutes for the deadlock to be broken, unsurprisingly thanks in part to Hoilett. A John Swift corner was cleared but only partly as the returning winger recycled the set piece and clipped a perfect cross for defender Morrison to power home at the second time of asking. A lull period followed the goal as the Potters felt their way back into the game, however it could have been two for the Royals when Joao almost connected with a floated cross. Midfield maestro Ejaira was lucky to be on the pitch after the half hour mark after he was only booked for a rash challenge on Jordan Thompson, who had to be stretchered off after the tackle.

Despite looking comfortable, it was the hosts who were to concede the second goal of the match as Thompson’s replacement, Romaine Sawyers, thundered home a strike straight at the keeper Orjan Nyland. It was Michael O Neil’s team’s first shot of the match, and the direction was poor but the pure power on the shot was enough to beat the Norwegian stopper. It could have been worse in stoppage time when Ejaira was dispossessed, and former Royal Lewis Baker spearheaded a counter attack from within his own half. Thankfully, Danny Drinkwater forcefully tracked back and managed to halt the Chelsea loanee in the Reading box.

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The visitors picked up where they left off after the break, dominating possession and creating chances from the start. Jacob Brown and Ben Wilmot both had efforts over the bar in the early exchanges of the half, but it was the Royals who regained the lead at the half-way stage of the half. Swift took a short free kick wide on the right and cut the ball to Hoilett on the edge of the box. His powerful strike was parried for a corner, and Joao thundered home a header at the near post from the resulting set piece.

Reading had chances to increase their advantage, namely when substitute Femi Azeez got in behind the defence, only for his cut back to be hit short and into the arms of the goalkeeper. From one end to the other, Brown should have equalised for the visitors when Tyrese Campbell cuts the ball into the box for the unmarked Brown, only for the forward to fire his shot over the bar and into the stand.

Defending backs to the wall for the final 10 minutes, the side dragged themselves over the line to record a monumental win in the bid to survive in the Championship.

The win lifts the Royals eight points clear of relegation with six matches to go, the first of which is against Cardiff City at the SCL Stadium on Saturday.