Dave Kitson's 11th league goal of the season was enough to seal Reading a narrow victory over luckless Stoke City.
Kitson, who now stands alongside Wigan's Nathan Ellington in the race for the Championship's golden boot, stabbed home his fourth goal in successive games, following an inviting centre from young winger Dean Morgan.
The Royals, who remain unbeaten at home in the league and have lost just once in their last 11 outings, deserved their victory but were given a huge scare by a Stoke side who have now scored just 14 goals in 18 league games this season.
Manager Tony Pulis tried hard to put that right, fielding four strikers in a bid to wreck Reading's proud home record.
And they had chances to improve their goalscoring record, Darel Russel forcing a smart save from Reading's big American goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, who then produced a stunning stop to deny former Royals favourite Carl Asaba.
But Reading took control of the game with a poacher's strike from Kitson midway through the first half.
Glenn Little found Morgan on the right wing and the youngster, making his first start of the season, cleverly made space for himself and rolled a low cross into the path of the onrushing Kitson.
Stoke suffered a further blow when goalkeeper Ed De Goey was forced to hobble off with a leg injury midway through the second half, but they battled to get back on level terms as they forced a series of second-half corners.
Chris Greenacre appeared to have made the breakthrough when he took advantage of Gifton Noel-Williams' left-wing trickery and shot through a crowd of defenders, only to see team-mate Ade Akinbiyi inadvertently block the goalbound shot.
Reading looked certain to put the seal on victory in stoppage time when Little centred for substitute Paul Brooker in acres of space, but his sidefoot shot was miraculously saved at close range by stand-in keeper Steve Simonsen.