victory over Cardiff City on Tuesday night.
Republic of Ireland striker Shane Long put the visitors in front after 28 minutes with a deft 20-yard chip after a mistake from keeper Stephen Bywater.
Long doubled the lead from the penalty spot on half-time when Dekel Keinan brought down Matt Mills. And Jobi McAnuff sealed the win with a sublime 30-yard run and finish.
The goal capped a ruthless and highly effective away performance from Brian McDermott’s side, who are aiming to return to the Premier League after a three-season absence.
Meanwhile, Cardiff – beaten play-off finalists last season – are left to evaluate another fruitless season which will inevitably lead to questions over Dave Jones’ future as manager.
The home side’s hopes were dealt a severe blow before kick-off when Craig Bellamy was omitted from the teamsheet.
The captain and driving force behind Cardiff’s late-season form had failed a late fitness test on a hamstring strain sustained in the goalless first leg at the Madejski Stadium on Friday, handing Michael Chopra a rare opportunity of late to start up front.
Left-back Paul Quinn was another hamstring victim from the first leg and his place taken by Jlloyd Samuel, one of five loan signings in the home starting line-up.
Reading made one change, with Shaun Cummings replacing Wales international Hal Robson-Kanu while influential winger Jimmy Kebe missed his sixth successive match because of a thigh injury.
In an attempt to generate a spurring atmosphere inside the stadium, the Bluebirds distributed “happy clappers” on every seat for the home supporters – and a bright start from both sides under a dull Cardiff sky gave the fans reason to find their voice.
Long was first to threaten for the visitors when he beat Samuel before firing low into the side netting.
A minute later, Chopra claimed a penalty after finding himself caught in between Mills and Mikele Leigertwood.
Peter Whittingham then forced the first save of the match with a 25-yard effort, comfortably collected by Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici, before Mills blocked a Seyi Olofinjana drive inside a lively 12-minute opening period.
Captain Mills again came to his side’s rescue with a superb block to divert Chopra’s goal-bound effort from a delightful Jay Bothroyd throughball.
And a fierce Bothroyd shot was then deflected wide for a corner, from which Keinan rose well to force Federici into action again.
But calamitous defending from Cardiff allowed the visitors to take the lead on 28 minutes.
Samuel’s attempted back-pass took a deflection off Kevin McNaughton’s head as it skidded towards goal and keeper Bywater rushed off his line, seemingly with enough time to clear the ball from danger outside of his penalty area.
But the on-loan stopper’s clearance rebounded off Long, who maintained his composure to lob the ball into an empty net from 20 yards out.
Federici was kept busy with a Jay Emmanuel-Thomas header and a low Bothroyd drive as Cardiff advanced in search of an equaliser.
Referee Howard Webb ignored a second Cardiff penalty appeal as Olofinjana felt he was pushed in the back as he rose to meet Chris Burke’s far-post cross.
The Royals almost matched the hosts’ generosity by gifting the home side an equaliser when Leigertwood failed to notice Bothroyd lurking just outside the Reading box.
But Australia international Federici raced off his line to clear the under-hit back-pass before Cardiff’s top scorer could intercept.
And moments later, Reading took a firm grip of the tie when Webb pointed without hesitation to the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time as Keinen brought down defender Mills with a blatant tug from a corner.
Long held his nerve to steer the ball into the bottom right corner, sending Bywater in the opposite direction.
Cardiff boss Dave Jones sent his side out early for the second half, and Emmanuel-Thomas wasted a decent chance to reduce the deficit in the opening five minutes when he failed to control a half-volley at the far post from Bothroyd’s cross. – BBC Sport.

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