Joey O'Brien and Jack Collison were sent off as West Ham United, second in the Championship, slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Reading, their worst beating under Sam Allardyce and second reverse on consecutive Saturdays.
Goalless at the interval, full-back O'Brien, on as a fourth-minute substitute for Guy Demel, was booked twice in the space of four minutes just after the hour. Alex Pearce fired in from eight yards after O'Brien's dismissal, before substitute Simon Church scored twice. The Hammers' misery was complete when Jack Collison lunged at Jimmy Kebe and joined O'Brien in the dressing room.
"Unfortunately a loss of control by the players that I haven't seen before in my time here cost us a result," Allardyce said. "We have had a very bad day. We lost our cool. We are in serious trouble now player-wise and will struggle to get 11 out."
Third-placed Cardiff City could not take full advantage of West Ham's slip when they were held 0-0 at Millwall. "A real good tough point," the Cardiff manager, Malky Mackay, said. But Middlesbrough, fourth, are now level on points with the Bluebirds. Scott McDonald's effort midway through the first half at the Riverside was enough to beat Brighton 1-0.
Hull City moved up to fifth when Corry Evans scored the only goal of the game at bottom-of-the-table Coventry City, who have not won for 10 games. Leeds United goalkeeper Alex McCarthy's late penalty save followed by Robert Snodgrass's more successful 95th-minute penalty earned a 1-1 draw at Watford.
Below them, Doncaster Rovers led but lost 2-1 at Birmingham City, Marlon King scoring both Blues goals, and Nottingham Forest lost 1-0 at home to Crystal Palace, Glenn Murray on target.
"I don't want to dampen expectations but we have to be realistic and talk of us being involved in the play-offs would be a huge bonus," Palace manager Dougie Freedman said.
Elsewhere, Leicester City and Peterborough drew 1-1 at the King Power Stadium, and after six games without a win Derby County came from a goal down to beat Bristol City 2-1, while David Norris's injury-time strike saw Portsmouth win 1-0 at Burnley, Pompey's first away win this season.
Hartlepool's first match after sacking head coach Mick Wadsworth ended in a 2-1 defeat at Brentford, the Bees moving into the top six. Leaders Charlton were held 1-1 at Walsall.
Crawley Town took over at the top thanks to their 3-0 defeat of Burton Albion and Southend United's defeat by the same score at third-placed Cheltenham Town. Aidy Boothroyd's first match in charge of Northampton Town ended in a 1-1 draw with Crewe.Reuse content