Reading secured their Championship play-off spot thanks to a narrow victory over Wigan.
Yann Kermorgant’s 17th goal of the season, a bullet first-half header, was enough to take the victory and in doing so relegated opponents Wigan.
Due to results elsewhere, both outcomes would have been confirmed anyway but the win extends Reading’s unbeaten home run to 10 matches.
Royals, making three changes from last week’s defeat away to Forest, came into the game knowing a point would secure their play-off spot and Reading made their winning intentions clear right from the start.
Inside four minutes a Jordan Obita cross from the left caused chaos in the Latics’ defence and the ball came out to Garath McCleary, but his shot was saved by Matt Gilks in the Wigan goal.
It took only six minutes for Royals to move in front as Kermorgant powered a header home from McCleary’s cross in from the right for his 17th goal of the season to get Reading of the most perfect of starts.
Relegation-threatened Wigan immediately looked to respond and probably should have equalised from a Michael Jacobs effort which was struck low but recently crowned Royals player of the season Al-Habsi got down to make the save.
Shortly after Reading’s George Evans made a strong challenge in midfield on Shaun MacDonald who suffered a suspected serious leg injury and the Latics player had to be driven off on a stretcher.
After the lengthy delay, Jacobs had another chance for the visitors but his volley from a narrow angle flew off target. Down the other end Kermorgant came close to doubling Reading’s lead but his attempt was blocked and Evans could only shin the rebound over the bar.
A quick Latics counter attack almost came good as Ryan Tunnicliffe went racing down the left and delivered a pin-point cross with the outside of his right boot towards the in-form Nick Powell, but the striker’s diving header was well saved by the diving Al-Habsi.
Powell then played a one-two with Jacobs to go through on goal and shot hit the side-netting however the offside flag had gone up.
During the 12 minutes of added time in the first-half, Evans made a fantastically timed sliding tackle in the box to put the ball out for a Wigan corner when Latics came down the right. Royals dealt with the Wigan pressure to go finally head to the break in control.
After the restart, Latics sub Callum Connolly went close to equalising for Wigan who had a free header at the back post but he misdirected his effort into the side-netting. The away side continued to look the more likely to score when Royals sub Lewis Grabban was
dispossessed by Powell and the Latics forward fired inches wide of Al-Habsi’s far post.
Reading looked for a second goal to put the game to bed and had a strong penalty appeal waved away by referee Tim Robinson when goalscorer Kermorgant appeared to be wrestled to the ground by Latics captain Stephen Warnock.
Latics sub, and Royals January transfer target, Omar Bogle spun on the edge of the area and managed to get a shot off, but missed over the bar.
Soon after, Grabban had a couple of great chances to secure the three points. Royals sub Ilori picked out winger Roy Beerens and he delivered towards Grabban who could not get contact on the ball. Grabban then fired narrowly over when Obita’s cross which was intended for Kermorgant fell to the Bournemouth loanee.
Royals survived another long spell of injury time at the end to hold out for the win and guarantee their place in the top six, ready for the end-of-season play-offs.
READING (ratings out of 10): Al-Habsi 7; Gunter (c) 7, Moore 7, Blackett 6.5, Obita 7; Kelly 8.5*, Evans 7 (Ilori 73 6), Swift 6.5 (Williams 60 6.5); McCleary 7 (Grabban 45+2 6), Beerens 6, Kermorgant 8.
Subs not used: Jaakkola, Oxford, Popa, Mendes.
Goal: Kermorgant (6)
Yellow cards: Evans (13), Moore (45+4), Gunter (51), Williams (64), Kelly (87)
WIGAN: Gilks; Hanson, Burke (Connolly 45+7), Morgan, Burn, Warnock (c); Jacobs, MacDonald (Power 21), Perkins, Tunnicliffe; Powell (Bogle 79).
Subs not used: Jaaskelainen, Bruce, Byrne, Colclough.
Yellow card: Connolly (50)
Referee: Tim Robinson
Attendance: 19,177 (inc. 402 away)