10-man Reading battled to no avail at Pride Park as Reading lost 2-1 at high-flying Derby County.

The Rams peppered the Royals goal in the first-half in an extended game of attack-versus-defence, but the second-half was full of talking points with three goals and a red card.

Dwight Gayle converted Joe Ward's free-kick but Sam Smith hit back with his side's first shot on target of the evening. A crazy 10-minute spell saw Andy Yiadom controversially sent off before Conor Hourihane converted another controversial free-kick in a busy evening for whistle-happy Charles Breakspear.

Derby took less than 60 seconds to get at the Reading defence for the first time, Connor Hourihane fizzing a low cross across the face of the Royals box, but no takers. A stop-start encounter, with Joel Pereria more than happy to take the sting out of the game from goal kicks, Louie Sibley came closest next when his powerful strike flew over the crossbar. It took 20 minutes for the visitors to register their first attempt, but Lewis Wing’s effort from distance never troubled Joe Wildsmith between the posts.

Pereira was forced into a strong save before the half-hour mark from Tom Barkhuizen’s attempt, but Andy Yiadom handled in his attempt to clear the ball and referee Breakspear awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box. Skipper Hourihane stepped up and his curled effort was flicked goalwards by Eiran Cashin, but the defender’s header could only slam onto the post. Facing wave after wave of attack, the Royals were relieved to make it back down the tunnel for half-time with the scores all level.

They last just nine minutes of the second half before conceding however as Joe Ward’s bent free-kick was eventually slotted home by Gayle for his third goal in as many games since his recent move to the club.

Finally breaking Reading’s resolve, many had expected the floodgates to open, however, the Royals struck straight back with their first shot on target. Ben Elliott burst down the right and a deep cross found Smith, whose header nestled in the bottom corner to stun most of the 24,000 in attendance into silence, bar the 800 travelling supporters in the far corner.

The game hinged on a crazy 10-minute spell midway through the half which saw Reading down to 10 men and fall, crucially, behind. Yiadom was adjudged to have fouled Hourihane on the edge of the box, much to the bemusement of those on the pitch and in the dugout. Minutes later, Pereira rushed to the edge of his box to attempt to claim a loose ball intended for Gayle but brought the striker down in the process. The referee had no doubt in his mind and pointed to the spot, with Hourihane converting the spot-kick and putting the high-flying hosts back in front.

Frustrated and a man down, Reading struggled to threaten in the closing stages, Harvey Knibbs coming closest when he hit a bouncing ball into the ground and narrowly over the bar. Pereira prevented the lead extending in stoppage time when Barkhuizen and Martyn Waghorn broke on goal, saving at the feet of Waghorn.

Hosting Cambridge United on Saturday, the Royals continue to face a battle of survival in League One.