READING FC were denied a much-needed Championship victory after a late blow at Nottingham Forest.

Jaap Stam's men were five minutes away from a second win in 12 league matches thanks to an Omar Richards cracker before the break.

But they failed to get over the finishing line as Lee Tomlin struck in the 85th minute to snatch a point for Aitor Karanka's Forest - also with one win in 12 - in this battle between two struggling sides.

The draw means both clubs keep the relegation trap door at arm's length.

But Stam will feel more the disappointed after being so close to gaining a precious three points.

Royals, fresh from a training beak in Spain, were the better side in the opening 45 minutes and could have been further in front after 20-year-old Richards scored his first for the club with spectacular finish.

However, Forest dominated the majority of the second period, hit the woodwork and equalised with their first Championship goal in almost 500 minutes which keeps them above Reading in the table.

Stam made three changes from the side that lost 2-1 at Middlesbrough last time out.

On-loan Derby striker Chris Martin was handed his first start, while fit-again Modou Barrow and Richards also returned, with Garath McCleary and Dave Edwards dropping to the bench.

Martin, though, wasted a gilt-edged chance to fire Royals in front with only three minutes on the clock.

A slick team move saw former Forest defender Chris Gunter send over an inviting cross that fell perfectly for Martin, but the striker somehow missed the target from no more than six yards out.

Forest almost capitalised three minutes later when Kieran Dowell fired narrowly wide from a Ben Brereton assist.

And Reading received a let off with eight minutes on the clock when Brereton glanced in Dowell's cross only for the linesman to raise the offside flag.

Stam's men remained a threat as Liam Moore went close before Danny Fox blocked Gunter's drive.

Tomlin and Joe Lolley replied at the other end, but Vito Mannone made two comfortable saves.

Gunter fired another warning to the hosts with a rasping shot that required all of Costel Pantilimon's attention.

And the Welshman played a key role in breaking the deadlock in the 35th minute.

Gunter collected Kelly's pass on the right and hit a stinging shot which Pantilimon palmed away.

But Richards was the quickest to react and slammed the rebound into the roof of the net from 12 yards before the Forest keeper could blink.

Reading Chronicle:

Omar Richards, 20, opened his Reading account with a memorable goal at Nottingham Forest.

Karanka's men are used to being behind, but Reading were ahead without too much trouble after Mannone had denied Tomlin once again.

However, the visitors found themselves under a wave of pressure after the restart as Forest pressed for an equaliser.

Fortune favoured Stam's side in the 55th minute when full-back Tendayi Darikwa rattled the crossbar with Mannone well beaten.

Then a minute later Richards rescued his side at the other end by blocking Darikwa's back-post shot with a stunning goal-line clearance.

Forest kept coming as Brereton's shot was blocked and Joe Lolley missed the target before Tobias Figueiredo headed wide from Tomlin's corner.

But Tiago Ilori also missed a decent opportunity to double Reading's lead with 63 minutes gone when he nodded wide from Kelly's set piece.

Even so, Reading had ridden a brief storm and were in touching distance of a precious three points as a flurry of substitutions and bookings disrupted the flow.

But Forest's patience paid off when Tomlin levelled five minutes from time with a perfectly-placed shot into the far corner after Lolley had set him up.

Arguably, it was no more than Forest deserved after their second-half performance, though Royals will be kicking themselves for throwing away a vital lead.

Reading remain 18th in the table, four points behind Forest and four above the relegation zone.

But Stam's men will need to find another gear this Saturday when they host fourth-placed Derby County.

Nottingham Forest: Pantilimon, Darikwa, Pereira Figueiredo, Fox, Osborn, Watson, Colback, Lolley, Tomlin (Guedioura 90), Dowell (Cash 66), Brereton. Subs not used: Bridcutt, McKay, Fuentes Hernández, Bouchalakis, Kapino. Booked: Osborn 62, Tomlin 74, Figueiredo 77.

Reading: Mannone, Gunter (c), Richards, Moore, Ilori, Van den Berg (Evans 81), Bacuna, Kelly (Edwards 90), Aluko, Barrow, Martin. Subs not used: Jaakkola, McCleary, Clement, Bodvarsson, Blackett. Booked: Kelly 37, Richards 76, Gunter 78.

Referee: Steve Martin.

Attendance: 21,846.