SAM Baldock scored an injury-time penalty to salvage a draw at Villa Park.

Steve Bruce's hosts were moments away from victory thanks to Ahmed Elmohamady's 51st-minute goal.

But referee Darren England awarded Royals a 92nd-minute penalty when James Chester collided with new boy Josh Sims.

Baldock - who missed a gilt-edged chance a few minutes earlier - held his nerve to fire the spot-kick past Orjan Nyland and open his Reading account.

Paul Clement's men are now unbeaten in two matches but are still without a Championship win after five games and remain 23rd in the table.

If the current run of three victories in 26 league games in 2018 continues they will be staring a second successive relegation battle in the face.

It is, of course, still early days and there is plenty of time for Clement to get things right.

But they are already cut adrift of the teams near the top and do not know where the next win is coming from.

However, snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat in front of a 33,000 crowd at Villa Park will undoubtedly raise spirits in the camp.

Clement made three changes from the 2-2 draw at Blackburn on Tuesday.

Paul McShane was left out of the squad after giving both penalties away at Ewood Park, with Tiago Ilori returning to partner Liam Moore in central defence.

David Meyler got the nod ahead of Liam Kelly and Mo Barrow replaced Yakou Meite on the wing.

But a mistake by Moore barely 30 second in almost gifted Villa the lead.

Royals' defender coughed up possession, but John McGinn could only fire at Vito Mannone when Jonathan Kodjia was better placed.

However, Clement's men could have gone ahead themsevles in the eighth minute when a Birkir Bjarnason error allowed Baldock a clear run at goal.

But the golden opportunity went when Baldock under-hit his final pass to Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, allowing Mile Jedinak to make a vital challenge.

Villa hit back immediately with the lively Anwar El Ghazi forcing two decent saves out of Mannone and also firing into the side netting.

Their luck was out again soon after when Chester headed against the crossbar from a dangerous delivery with Reading's defence all at sea.

Royals, though, gained a foothold and limited the home side's chances.

Jack Grealish fired straight at Mannone midway through the first half, but it was routine for the Italian.

The Villa midfielder, who looked to be heading to Spurs over the summer, also went agonosingly close five minutes before the break. Mannone flapped at McGinn's cross from the left and Grealish hit a first-time volley that flew an inch wide of the post.

But Reading threatened again shortly before the interval from a set piece. The home side failed to deal with Sone Aluko's corner before Baldock and Moore both saw shots blocked from no more than six yards with Nyland off his line.

Barrow failed to reappear for the second half, with Meite sent on to replace him. Bruce also made an enforced change as Conor Hourihane came on for Grealish.

Reading resistance was finally broken six minutes into the second half. Alan Hutton sent over a pin-point cross from the left and Elmohamady nipped in between Moore and Ilori to head past Mannone from six yards.

Reading struggled to break down the hosts as Kodjia curled an effort over for Bruce's men just after the hour mark.

Clement threw on new loan signing Sims midway through the second period in a bid to revive his midfield.

But Villa were soon pressing for a second when substitute Albert Adomah found Hourihane, whose shot fizzed across the face of the Reading goal.

The home side's confidence continued to grow as Adomah stung Manone's hands from distance.

Clement made his final change with nine minutes remaining by sending on Marc McNulty for Bodvarsson - and it so nearly produced an equaliser within a matter of seconds.

Baldock collected a brilliant ball from Sims just a few yards out, but his effort came off the underside of the bar before Meite's follow-up was instinctively saved by Nyland.

It seems as though Reading's hopes went up in smoke in that moment.

But Clement's men kept on fighting and earned a controversial spot-kick at the very death.

Chester appeared to win the ball when he tackled Sims, but England awarded the penalty and Baldock showed nerves of steel by firing past Nyland to snatch a precious point.

Aston Villa: Nyland, Tuanzebe, Chester (c), McGinn, Grealish (Hourihane 46), Jedinak, Bjarnason, Hutton, El Ghazi (Adomah 67), Kodjia (Taylor 90), Elmohamady. Subs not used: Moreira, Whelan, Elphick, Hepburn-Murphy.

Reading FC: Mannone, Yiadom, Ilori, Moore, Blackett; Aluko (Sims 67), Bacuna, Meyler, Barrow (Meite 46) Baldock, Bodvarsson (McNulty 81). Subs not used: Walker, O’Shea, Swift, Kelly. Booked: Meite 58, Sims 70.

Referee: Darren England.

Attendance: 33,045.