Ovie Ejaria produced two outstanding finishes as Reading inflicted a first home defeat of the season on Fulham with a 2-1 victory at Craven Cottage.
The Cottagers started the day as Championship leaders but they were trailing from the 19th minute when Ejaria found the top corner with a curling shot from the edge of the box.
And the former Liverpool youngster, 23, produced an even better effort in the 53rd minute as he collected Alen Halilovic’s chipped pass on the turn and side-footed past Cottagers ‘keeper Paulo Gazzaniga.
Fulham replied in the 86th minute with Rodrigo Muniz heading home from close range after Aleksandar Mitrovic directed Harry Wilson’s cross back across goal.
But Reading held on in the face of strong late pressure to record back-to-back successes for the first time this term, while Fulham slumped to a second defeat in three games.
Marco Silva’s side had responded to their first loss of the campaign at Blackpool with a comfortable 4-1 victory at Birmingham midweek.
And they looked as though they would quickly build on that success when they immediately pressed Reading backwards with Bobby Decordova-Reid and Mitrovic both going close.
Reading had ended a winless four-game run with victory over Peterborough this week and they began to threaten once they had settled into the match.
And they forced the lead when Ejaria finished following a sweeping move.
Halilovic drove forward on the right before squaring for John Swift who moved the ball quickly on to Ejaria and the left-sided midfielder cut in onto his right foot before beating Gazzaniga.
Reading were forced into a change immediately after the goal when Tom Holmes was replaced by Danny Drinkwater for the midfielder’s first appearance since joining on a season-long loan from Chelsea.
The switch did little to affect Reading and Swift came close to adding a second when he sent a well-struck free-kick just wide of Gazzaniga’s right-hand post.
Fulham struggled to recover the momentum they had built up in the opening stages but Decordova-Reid spurned a good headed chance and Mitrovic was left frustrated when he struck the bar in first-half added time.
The Cottagers carried on from where they had left off after the restart with Ivan Cavaleiro immediately forcing Luke Southwood into action.
But it was Reading who struck the next blow when Ejaria doubled the lead with a superb finish.
Halilovic was again at the heart of the move, intercepting Tim Ream’s pass to launch the counter-attack and was then on hand to chip a superb return pass into the path of Ejaria who turned as he controlled the ball before slotting home.
Muniz’s first Fulham goal gave the home side hope but they were unable to find an equaliser.
What the managers said…
Fulham’s Marco Silva: « The stats are there and I think it was clear for everyone that saw the game. But the result is there as well. In football you can have all the possession and create so many chances but if you are not clinical enough it can happen.
« We scored one but we conceded two goals. OK the first one was a counter-attack and it’s a good goal from the winger. The second goal we cannot concede in that way. At 2-0 it’s more difficult but the commitment, the attitude, the desire to change things was there. I think we were not so happy that the basics that we can’t legislate for were not on the pitch. »
Reading’s Veljko Paunovic: « Ovie had an amazing performance. We see that in training many times and we encourage him to do that more often in games. Every time we brought the ball to him there was some excitement and he was very clinical in execution. We have to get the ball to him more often. It’s difficult to say which was my favourite goal but I’ll say just because of the beauty of the execution the first goal. »
« I’m delighted with many things. The result, the performance. The way we ground out the win and three parts. I think there were a lot of pieces that were missing in the past. We showed grit, determination, character, composure. We matched them up in defence and executed well in attack. There were lots of positives. Last week I said we are starting a fresh beginning of the season and from this point it will only get better. The new guys still have to catch up on their fitness. But I have seen this coming. And now we need consistency. »