VITO Mannone cemented his name in Reading FC folklore when he denied a last-gasp penalty to help Royals put their winless woes behind them with a 1-0 win against Leeds United.

Modou Barrow had stepped off the bench to haunt his former side and Royals looked set to end their poor run of form.

But a late penalty awarded to the home side looked set to dampen Reading’s spirits, but for Italian shot-stopper Mannone to spectacularly deny Pablo Hernandez.

Jaap Stam’s men managed to see out the remaining minutes of the game to put Royals back to winning ways and perhaps ease pressure from supporters.

A transformed system saw Royals start in a 4-4-2 formation with Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Sone Aluko leading the attacking line. Chris Gunter slotted in at left-back after Jordan Obita was ruled out for the season last week, meanwhile Leandro Bacuna filled in at right-back.

Dutchman Stam had clearly seen enough of Royals’ winless rut and opted for a much more direct style of play at Elland Road, with Reading often playing the ball long rather than passing around at the back.

Royals’ first chance came shortly after the 15-minute mark when Gunter’s delicate cross fell perfectly for Welsh international teammate Dave Edwards.

Edwards could not quite guide his header on target and Gunter had been flagged offside, but the move showcased Royals’ attacking intent.

Tiago Ilori then came to Royals’ rescue when Sone Aluko gave the ball away, allowing the home side to charge towards goal.

However, the former Liverpool man used his pace to get in front of his man and clear the threat for Jaap Stam’s men.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson could have given Reading the lead when he turned neatly and darted inside the box with 38 minutes played. The Icelandic international - who celebrated World Cup qualification in midweek - got a shot away but it was well saved by Leeds’ stopper Lonergan.

Midfielder Edwards was presented with a chance early in the second-half after some fine work from Bodvarsson on the right wing.

The towering forward fizzed the ball across the face of goal and Edwards only had to guide the ball on target - but his snatched effort looped high over the crossbar.

Leandro Bacuna had an opportunity to test Lonergan from range but his effort sailed high of the target.

Former Swansea City man Barrow was introduced after 65 minutes and almost made an immediate impact from the bench. The fleet-footed-forward fizzed a shot across the face of goal but it narrowly squirmed away from the beaten Lonergan’s post.

Barrow again thought he had broken the deadlock after his goal-bound strike was fantastically palmed away by Lonergan to keep Royals at bay.

Reading then found themselves hanging on as they entered the final 10 minutes after the home side launched a late onslaught.

First, Leandro Bacuna had to rescue Royals with one of the tackles of the season as he cut across to deny Jay-Roy Grot a tap-in after Reading had given the ball away in a threatening position.

The ball fell kindly to Jansson but, thankfully for Reading and Stam, the centre-back ballooned his effort over the crossbar.

But Barrow finally broke the deadlock when he burst through on goal following van den Berg’s glorious pass before blasting a shot beyond with six minutes remaining.

He did not hold back with his celebration against his former club either, ripping his shirt off to celebrate with an elated Royals side.

The goal prompted ‘boring, boring Reading’ chants from the home crowd as Reading looked set to put their winless run behind them.

But it nearly all ended in heartbreak when Saiz fell to the ground inside the box and earned the home side a penalty kick.

Hernandez dispatched the spot-kick neatly but Italian stopper Mannone guessed the right way and made himself a Reading FC hero by saving the gilt-edged chance from 12-yards.

Royals saw out the remaining seconds to pick up a hard-fought win away from home.

Reading FC: Mannone, Bacuna, Ilori, Moore, Gunter, McCleary (Clement,90), van den Berg, Edwards, Beerens (Barrow, 65), Bodvarsson, Aluko (Kelly, 71).

Subs not used: Jaakkola, Blackett, Popa, Smith.