READING FC claimed a vital point against Leeds United in their fight for survival – but could have had all three after a lively clash at Madejski Stadium.

Leeds scored twice in 13 minutes through Pontus Jansson and Pablo Hernandez either side of the break to cancel out Jon Dadi Bodvarsson’s opener.

But Jaap Stam’s men equalised with an Eunan O’Kane own goal after Leandro Bacuna’s shot hit the Leeds midfielder and went in.

Paul Heckinbottom’s visitor almost snatched it late on when Pierre-Michel Lasogga charged down an Anssi Jaakkola clearance, the ball bouncing off the post.

But Royals also saw George Evans denied by the woodwork and they also spurned a host of gilt-edged chances during a hugely encouraging first-half display.

The draw saw Reading drop one place to 19th in the Championship table, but increase their lead over the relegation zone to six points.

And Royals have still won just once in 16 league matches and have not tasted victory at home on a Saturday since April last year.

Yet on today’s evidence, they have more than enough in their locker to stay up this season.

They could, and perhaps should, have finished off Leeds in the first half and could have been at least 3-0 up before Jansson snatched a lifeline shortly before the interval.

Stam made three changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Bolton on Tuesday night.

Tiago Ilori returned in place of teenager Tom Holmes, a decision that drew plenty of criticism from supporters.

Fit-again Bacuna also stepped back in while Bodvarsson got the nod up front with Chris Martin ruled out through illness and Yann Kermorgant still recovering from a calf injury.

There was also a rare place in the squad for Danny Loader, with the academy striker talking a seat on the bench along with Sam Smith, John Swift and Holmes.

Leeds boss Heckinbottom stuck with youngster Bailey Peacock-Farrell in goal, while Matthew Pennington replaced the injured Liam Cooper in defence.

This was a battle between two of the Championship’s worst performing sides.

Only bottom-of-the-table Sunderland (6) had collected fewer points that Reading and Leeds (7) during 2018 before kick-off.

Royals asserted some early pressure through Mo Barrow’s pace and won a couple of corners which Leeds cleared before Ezgjan Alioski fired into the side netting for the visitors.

But Heckingbottom’s men went close to an opener in the eighth minute when Caleb Ekuban’s shot was blocked by Ilori before Alioski’s follow-up was saved by Jaakkola at his near post.

Royals, though, were screaming for a penalty four minutes later when Pennington appeared to send Bodvarsson sprawling with a shove in the back, but referee Scott Duncan only gave a corner.

But Reading fans were on their feet when Stam’s men took a 16th minute lead.

Sone Aluko’s perfectly-weighted pass split open the Leeds defence and Bodvarsson took a couple of touches before sliding the ball under Peacock-Farrell for his 10th of the season.

And Royals very nearly added a second in the 24th minute as Leeds were hanging on.

Stam’s men worked the ball beautifully from left to right before Gunter sent Barrow racing clear.

The Gambian’s delicious pass reached Bodvarsson whose back-post effort was saved then hacked off the line by Pennington, with Evans’ follow-up also blocked on the line more by luck than judgement.

The visitors responded with skipper Gaetano Berardi testing Jaakkola from distance.

But Royals blew a glorious chance to double their lead with 32 minutes on the clock.

The hosts broke from a Leeds free-kick on the edge of their own box before Barrow nicked the ball off Laurens De Bock and found himself clean through on goal.

But Peacock-Farrell made himself big and stayed on his feet to somehow divert Barrow’s shot around the post to keep it at 1-0.

And the Leeds keeper came to his side’s rescue again seven minutes later when he managed to get a finger to Evans’ 30-yard effort and push it onto the crossbar.

The importance of those saves were soon realised as Leeds levelled against the run of play in the 43rd minute.

Moore blocked Ekuban’s shot on the turn but Royals switched off from the resulting corner.

Samuel Sais picked up the scraps and crossed to Adam Forshaw who teed up Jansson, the big Swede poking past Jaakkola from close range.

Royals, who could easily have been 3-0 up, were suddenly back to 1-1 after a hugely promising first half.

And they almost regained the lead on the stroke of half time when Clement curled an effort a foot wide of the post.

Stam’s men continued to probe after the restart with Bacuna blazing over in the 51st minute.

But they fell behind I the 56th minute for the first time in the match after some Hernandez magic.

Kelly coughed up possession in a dangerous spot before Leeds worked the ball to the Spaniard on the left side of the area.

The former Swansea forward looked up and picked his spot perfectly, curling the ball around Jaakkola and into the far corner to send Leeds fans wild.

But their celebrations lasted less than two minutes as Royals swiftly levelled.

Evans found Bacuna in acres of space on the right side of the box and the former Aston Villa man hit a fierce drive than deflected off O’Kane and gave Peacock-Farrell no chance.

It was no more than Reading deserved, but Leeds remained a threat on the break.

Jaakkola was at his very best when diving full stretch to palm Alioski’s curling shot around the post in the 81st minute.

Substitute Lasogga also headed wide from a Forshaw cross moment later.

But Royals almost threw it all away with five minutes left on the clock.

Jaakkola’s clearance was charged down by Lasogga and the ball tricked across the empty goalmouth and hit the far post before Royals’ keeper grabbed it on the line to spare his blushes.

Reading travel to leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday night (7.45pm ko).

Reading: Jaakkola, Gunter (c), Moore, Ilori, Bacuna, Clement (Swift 63), Evans (Edwards 63), Kelly, Aluko, Barrow, Böðvarsson. Subs not used: Mannone, Blackett, Smith, Loader, Holmes. Booked: Evans 24, Kelly 31.

Leeds United: Peacock-Farrell, De Bock, Pennington, Jansson, Berardi (c), O'Kane, Forshaw, Alioski, Hernandez (Dallas 85), Saiz, Ekuban (Lasogga 77). Subs not used: Wieldwald, Anita, Phillips, Vieira, Pearce. Booked: Pennington 49.

Referee: Scott Duncan.

Attendance: 19,770 (Leeds 3,467).