YANN Kermorgant and Adrian Popa fired Reading FC closer to the Championship play-offs - but Ali Al-Habsi walked off with the man-of-the-match honours.

Kermorgant's 10th of the season gave Royals a 13th minute lead and substitute Popa became the first Romanian to score for the club with an injury-time second.

But sandwiched inbetween those goals were at least half-a-dozen stunning stops by veteran stopper, Al-Habsi.

The 35-year-old made a perfectly-timed save to prevent his ex-Wigan team-mate Callum McManaman from grabbing an equaliser moments before Popa's vital goal.

The Oman international also kept out former Royals targert Jordan Rhodes on several occasions to help Jaap Stam's men end a run of three straight league defeats away from home that threatened to scupper their promotion hopes.

All of a sudden Reading are back in the box seat after victory against an Owls side who would have leapfrogged above them in the table with a win themsevles.

A home win, it has to be said, many might have expected after Stam's men came up short in defeats to Brighton, Huddersfield and Preston during which they also failed to score.

But it seems there is plenty of fight left in the Royals yet as they moved above Leeds United into fourth with a six-point lead over over Fulham in seventh having played one more game.

Stam made three changes from the side that slumped 3-0 at Preston as Liam Moore, Danny Williams and Roy Beerens came in for Paul McShane, Jordon Mutch and Lewis Grabban.

A lively opening saw Williams miss the target from a decent position after a neat one-two with Garath McCleary in the seventh minute.

Carlos Carvalhal's hosts responded two minutes later, but Al-Habsi saved comfortably from Rhodes.

But Wednesday were giving Stam's men too much space and Kermorgant punished them in the 13th minute.

There was no pressure on John Swift when he collected the ball near the half-way line.

The England Under 21 international found Kermorgant with a raking pass and the Frenchman did the rest, shifting the ball past a defender and onto his left foot before drilling it into the bottom corner from 16 yards.

The home side responded quickly as Adam Reach and Sam Winnall both went close.

Carvalhal must have thought his luck was out when Morgan Fox hit the post in the 23rd minute with Al-Habsi beaten on this occasion.

Royals' stopper added to Wednesday's frustrations with a vital reflex save to somehow scoop Rhodes' header away from Reach's cross.

Reading Chronicle:

Reading keeper, Ali Al-Habsi.

But Stam's men had their noses in front and continued to search for a second, with Kermorgant testing Keiran Westwood with a header from Chris Gunter's centre.

Rhodes led the fightback after the break but could only shoot wide from Barry Bannan's assist.

Royals appeared comfortable with their lead, Beerens slamming one from 35-yards to keep Owls on their toes.

But they had Al-Habsi to thank in the 68th minute when the Oman keeper brilliantly denied Rhodes once again.

Swift almost doubled Reading's lead two minutes later by gliding past three opponents only to drag his effort wide.

But they were a whisker away from conceding six minutes later when Moore luckily sensed danger and hacked McManaman's shot off the line.

Stam's men refused to sit on their lead and could have added a second in the 77th minute when Kermorgant rolled the ball across the box, but Grabban couldn't get a touch.

A late Owls onslaught followed but Al-Habsi was there to repel all that came his way with a stunning stop from Will Buckley with five minutes to go.

And as the clock ticked past the 90-minute mark he did the business again by keeping out a thumping effort from his former Wigan team-mate McManaman.

It was as though the penny had dropped with Stam's players that the play-offs could slip away.

And they finally gave themselves some breathing space five minutes into stoppage time when Popa tapped home after Wednesday had sent Westwood and everyone else up for a corner and Williams had countered with guile.

There was no coming back for a Wednesday outfit who may face a battle to stay in the top six themselves.

For Reading it was a victory that ended and poor run and most of all restored confidence for what lies ahead - another six-pointer against Leeds United after a fortnight's international break.

Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Hunt, Lees, Loovens (Nuhiu 88), Fox, Buckley, Jones (McManaman 60), Bannan, Reach, Rhodes, Winnall (Fletcher 78). Subs not used: Wildsmith, Palmer, Matias, Semedo.

Reading: Al Habsi, Gunter (c), Obita, Blackett, Moore, Van den Berg, Williams, Swift (Oxford 94), Beerens (Grabban 62), McCleary (Popa 87), Kermorgant. Subs not used: Legg, Watson, Meite, Mendes, Booked: Blackett 25, Obita 64.

Referee: Geoff Eltringham.

Attendance: 26,072.