With eight minutes to go West Bromwich Albion were cruising.
Romelu Lukaku had put them 2-0 up and Reading looked to be staying at the bottom of the Premier League table, without as much as a whimper.
But on 82 minutes, Jimmy Kébé scored, six minutes later Adam Le Fondre converted a penalty and in added time Pavel Pogrebnyak pinched a winner, to complete one of the greatest Premier League turnarounds of all time.
Brian McDermott, the Reading manager, was as shocked as anyone in the post-match press conference, not knowing how his players managed to win the match which could be the catalyst that keeps them up.
“I talked to the players after the game and told them if you can win that match, 2-0 down with eight-minutes to go, you can do anything,” he said.
“I am happy to play in high-scoring games, as long as we win them. The real Reading was the last eight minutes of the match. I am proud of the players.
“We were flat in the first half. You don’t usually win games when you are 2-0 down. They needed to score the third goal, but we stayed in the game.
“We have got great resilience. It is a big win, it shows great character, we have had that for a while. It is a unique club and situation. We have got to keep carrying on if we want to stay in the Premier League. I don’t have a tally we should get to. My only target is to win the next game and keep the club in the Premier League, that is the most important thing.”
The match started slowly, but West Brom had the first chance, George Thorne cutting the ball back for James Morrison whose shot from 12 yards was saved by Adam Federici.
Moments later, Lukaku opened the scoring, Morrison squaring for the on-loan Chelsea forward to tap in from three yards. Reading’s best effort in the first period came from a tame header by Pogrebnyak which was comfortably saved by Ben Foster.
Minutes into the second half Lukaku hit the woodwork twice. Firstly heading a Morrison cross onto the right-hand post, then smashing an effort from 15 yards against the crossbar, which flew away to safety.
The Belgian international did double West Brom’s lead on 69 minutes, though – Morrison slipping a ball into Lukaku’s path, who ran on before hitting a low shot into Federici’s bottom right-hand corner, seemingly putting the match out of Reading’s reach.
But this is why the Premier League is considered by many to be the best in the world. Brian McDermott’s side were 1,000-1 with most bookmakers to stage a winning comeback before Garath McCleary crossed and Jimmy Kébé stooped to head home from close range.
On 88 minutes, Kébé was fouled by Queens Park Rangers target Jonas Olsson on the line of the penalty area. Le Fondre, the Reading striker, stepped up and sent Foster the wrong way from the spot, into the bottom left-hand corner for his sixth league goal of the season, which have all been scored at the Madejski.
Reading could sense a third win of their Premier League campaign, and they managed to get it with Pogrebnyak’s third goal in as many matches. Ian Harte crossing in, Alex Pearce heading the ball on and the Russian forward pushing the ball past Foster.
Steve Clarke, the West Brom manager, described his side’s collapse as a “nightmare.” He said: “You never have the points in the bag in the Premier League. I thought we had won the points. We could have been out of sight – we could have been four, five, or six up. We lost our composure. We had control and it should have been a comfortable victory.
“Sometimes football is a strange game and that was the case today. It wasn’t a matter of complacency, though, just one of those things.
After a promising spell in November which saw them go third, Albion will face struggling Aston Villa next week, looking to avoid a fourth straight defeat.
Clarke said, “It won’t be hard to lift the players, they are professional. Hopefully we can put right the wrongs from today in the derby match next week.”
Reading (5-4-1): Federici; Gunter, Carrico (McCleary, 46), Mariappa, Pearce, Harte; McAnuff, Guthrie, Karacan (Le Fondre, 65), Kébé; Pogrebnyak.
West Bromwich (4-5-1): Foster; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Dorrans (Rosenberg, 79), Thorne, Brunt, Morrison, Thomas; Lukaku..
Referee: Kevin Friend.
Man of the match: Lukaku (West Bromwich)
Match rating: 8/10