Reading not only remembered how to score after eight and a half hours without a goal but found they could register a victory, too. Shane Long built on the 56th-minute equaliser by Kevin Doyle that ended their drought, with a winner nine minutes from time, to reinvigorate Steve Coppell's hopes of claiming automatic promotion from the Championship.
The result vindicated the Reading manager in resisting the temptation to make wholesale changes in the wake of Saturday's home defeat to relegation-threatened Nottingham Forest. "We have been looking likely at times in recent games without getting any reward," Coppell said. "I don't know whether it will be a lift for us because with so many games the picture is changing every day." Coppell's view that "it might easily have finished as a draw" perhaps recognised the crucial decisions that went Reading's way in the build-up to what proved the decisive goal, infuriating Wednesday manager, Brian Laws.
Laws was angered by referee Andy Hall's decision to disallow a "goal" by Wednesday's Leon Clarke for a foul moments before Reading scored and felt Reading's Michael Duberry should have been penalised for the centre-circle challenge that released Stephen Hunt to set up substitute Long's scoring run. "The less I say about the referee the better but I'm disappointed for our supporters that they have seen some atrocious decisions," Laws said.
Wednesday had gone ahead in stoppage time at the end of an even first half when Reading paid for letting their focus drift. Marcus Tudgay won an aerial challenge for Michael Gray's cross, Clarke shielded the ball with his back to goal and when it ran loose midfielder Sean McAllister was on to it first, lashing a left-foot shot past Adam Federici. Yet Reading did not have to wait much longer for their frustrations to be ended. Lee Grant denied Liam Rosenior with an excellent save but when Marek Matejovsky's corner came in from the left Noel Hunt's flick-on found Doyle well-positioned to nod home at the far post.
Doyle was cautioned after jumping on to the perimeter advertising boards to celebrate, although given that Reading fans had endured 504 goalless minutes since an own goal gave their side victory over Wolves on 27 January – 597 since one of their own players scored on 9 January – it seemed a price worth paying.
The match was settled inside the last 10 minutes. After Clarke had put the ball in the Reading net only to be hauled back for a foul on Alex Pearce, earning a yellow card for his complaints, Reading broke away after Duberry had won possession. The defender released Hunt, who looked up to spot Long's break on the right, the Reading substitute finding the net from an angle after barely four minutes on the field.
In a frenzied finale, Wednesday goalkeeper Grant almost saved the day, adding his weight to the home side's bid to force a late leveller but his powerful header was pushed around the post by Federici.
Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Grant; Buxton, Beevers, Wood, Spurr; Johnson (Jeffers, 81), McAllister, Potter (O'Connor, 75), Gray (Small, 75); Tudgay, Clarke. Substitutes not used: Hinds, Simek, Boden.
Reading (4-4-2): Federici; Rosenior, Duberry, Pearce, Armstrong; Tabb, Matejovsky, Gunnarsson (Cisse, 90), S Hunt; Doyle, N Hunt (Long, 77). Substitutes not used: Hahnemann (gk), Kebe, Harper.
Referee: A Hall (West Midlands).Reuse content