Captain for the night Ivar Ingimarsson was the unlikely hero as his fine goal gave Reading a scrappy Coca-Cola Championship win over 10-man Blackpool.
Steve Coppell’s side looked a shadow of their normal fluent selves until Ingimarsson popped up with a clinical low drive to give them a lead midway through the first half.
The Royals improved slightly after the goal with Czech Republic midfielder Marek Matejovsky influential on his return before Lee Hendrie was sent off for a foul on him.
That left Simon Grayson’s side to play for almost an hour a man light and despite some dogged resistance they rarely threatened in a poor game.
Grayson was later sent to the stands before Stephen Hunt missed a last-minute penalty.
Reading were unsuccessful in their afternoon appeal over Jimmy Kebe’s red card at Barnsley on Saturday so Reading-born youngster James Henry was handed his first league start for the club while captain James Harper was surprisingly dropped to the bench.
That allowed Matejovsky to start for the first time since the opening day after recovering from an ankle injury and his precise passing and clever awareness of space were major plus points on a dour evening of play.
Kyel Reid bent a free-kick onto the roof of the net in a rare Blackpool attack before Ingimarsson opened the scoring in the 27th minute.
A Henry free-kick was not cleared and after Kevin Doyle attempted an overhead kick, the loose ball fell to the centre-half on the edge of the area and he drilled a low shot perfectly into the bottom-left corner.
Hendrie was then shown a straight red card by referee Jarnail Singh in the 33rd minute for a high challenge on Matejovsky to leave the Seasiders in trouble.
The second half was slow to get started with the 10 men content to sit behind the ball but Brynjar Gunnarsson came close to doubling the lead 10 minutes in.
Stephen Hunt burst through two challenges on the left before squaring for Gunnarsson just outside the area. He took a touch to set the ball before sending a curling effort which was destined for the top corner until a flying save by Paul Rachubka.
Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann then had to be replaced by Adam Federici after picking up an injury while Grayson brought on Liam Dickinson.
The on-loan Derby forward had grabbed four goals in his first two games for the Seasiders and his first touch freed fellow sub Gary Taylor-Fletcher to smash past Federici.
The hardy band of away fans gleefully celebrated but their joy was cut short by a correctly-raised offside flag.
That proved to be a rare highlight as Reading failed to get out of second gear, though the visitors wanted a penalty late on when Keith Southern’s volley struck Stephen Hunt at point-blank range.
Grayson was sent to the stands by Singh for his protests and his miserable night looked like getting worse in stoppage time when Chris Armstrong was upended in the area.
Substitute Shane Long and Stephen Hunt tussled over the ball but Hunt pulled rank and then saw his tame effort saved.
It may have been one of their worst performances of the season but Coppell’s men held on for the win which sees them keep the pressure on Wolves and Birmingham at the top of the table.