Reading held at home by Swansea City
BOXING DAY RESULTS
|Boxing Day, December 26|
|More: Scores | Stats | Premier League|
The Royals are still rooted deep in the relegation zone but they were the only one of the bottom three teams to get any kind of a result today, while Southampton also drew.
It is a small step but stopping the rot was vital for Brian McDermott's men, who had come so close to earning a draw against Manchester City before Christmas.
The Royals' last Barclays Premier League points came on November 17.
Adam Le Fondre saw a late volley headed over the bar by Swansea defender Chico Flores and the Reading striker was also booked for handling the ball Maradona style into the net.
But after conceding nine goals in their last two home games, Reading's onus was clearly on keeping a clean sheet and goalkeeper Adam Federici secured that by saving well from Nathan Dyer and Ki Sung-yeung.
Reading also rode their luck in the first half with Michu shooting wide and then over the bar from close range in a game of little quality.
The in-house DJ played 'The Impossible Dream' before kick-off, which for long periods of a labored game seemed to sum up Reading's hopes of surviving in the top flight.
The home supporters are already indulging in black humor. When Swansea's traveling fans chanted "Going down, going down, going down", the home support sang "So are we, so are we, so are we".
Danny Guthrie was given his first start, the only change to the side beaten so late at Manchester City at the weekend, and he had early shouts for a penalty.
Pavel Pogrebnyak pick-pocketed Flores and Guthrie carried the ball into the box before going down under the challenge of Leon Britton but the referee waved play on.
It was a rare Reading foray forward. It was only in the final 20 minutes that Reading began to put Swansea under any sustained pressure.
For most of a turgid first half they were content to sit back, allow Swansea to keep possession and ride their luck.
Swansea were comfortable in possession and Michu linked well with Luke Moore on the edge of the Reading box before digging out a shot which just curled wide of the top corner.
The classy Spaniard showed shades of Matt Le Tissier as he turned Adrian Mariappa inside out before stabbing a shot just wide of the near post.
Michu was harshly judged to have fouled the hapless Mariappa so a goal would not have stood in any case, but it was another let-off for Reading.
The Royals sat deep. Swansea held on to the ball, moving it around their back four and playing the waiting game.
At one stage the only entertainment in the ground came from the brass band in the far corner.
Jimmy Kebe tried to haul the game out of the rut with a break from his own half but a dreadful touch from Pogrebnyak on the edge of the box allowed Swansea keeper Michel Vorm to scoop up the ball.
Reading defender Chris Gunter then made a hash of his attempt to chest a cross from Dyer back to his keeper, and Michu pounced but somehow poked his shot over the bar from four yards out.
Reading had more penalty shouts turned down when Jobi McAnuff went down as he challenged for a header and the Royals then wasted a promising free-kick opportunity.
There was more urgency about Reading in the second half. They began to press Swansea more.
Guthrie went in hard on Britton to win the ball but Pogrebnyak then lunged in very late on Dwight Tiendalli to earn a yellow card.
Pogrebnyak made way almost immediately with Anthony Le Fondre taking over up front and Hal Robson-Kanu replacing McAnuff in a double substitution.
Although Swansea had dominated possession it was only in the final half hour they began to really test Federici.
The first chance came from sloppy Reading defending, which allowed Wayne Routledge to pick out Dyer, whose diving header from eight yards out was well saved by Federici.
The Australian dealt well with a powerful drive from Ki Sung-Yeung after Reading had only half-cleared their lines from a Swansea free-kick.
Reading fans celebrated what they thought was the winner after 73 minutes when Le Fondre beat Vorm from close range after rising to meet Ian Harte's free-kick.
But eagle-eyed referee Mike Jones spotted Le Fondre had turned the ball in with his arm and booked the Reading striker.
Vorm was the busiest man on the field in the closing stages, repeatedly punching clear as Reading finally turned the screw in search of a late winner.
One such punch fell to Le Fondre, whose volley was goal-bound but Flores did well to stand his ground and head the ball up over his own bar.