READING twice came from behind to earn a point in a crazy 3-3 draw against promotion-chasing Derby at Madejski Stadium this afternoon.
The visitors took an early lead through Kasey Palmer, but Royals got themselves 2-1 in front courtesy of a stunning Liam Kelly effort and Mo Barrow’s calm finish.
But within 40 seconds of the restart, Derby were ahead again. Richard Keogh had equalised before the break and winger Tom Lawrence put the Rams in front, capitalising on some sloppy defending.
That is how it stayed until the final 10 minutes when Jon Dadi Bodvarsson struck a close-range equaliser.
Both sides were pressing for the win until Derby were reduced to 10 men when Chris Baird lunged in on Barrow.
Royals threw everything at Gary Rowett’s men but could not find a winner and the points were shared at the end of the breathless encounter.
Jaap Stam made two changes from the side which drew at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night. One was enforced with Chris Martin ineligible to face his parent club so Jon Dadi Bodvarsson came in up front while Pelle Clement was preferred to Joey van den Berg. John Swift was named on the bench after returning from injury.
Royals made a bright start, but found themselves behind on six minutes when Lawrence’s shot was parried by Mannone out to Palmer to sweep in from 12 yards.
Not deterred by the early opener, Reading continued to push forwards and deservedly levelled through a sensational Kelly strike.
Out of nothing, the midfielder pinged an effort from 25 yards which flew into the top corner to notch his first goal since September.
Derby were rattled, struggling to get out of their own half and Reading’s pressure told as they completed the turnaround just past the half hour mark.
Royals won the ball back high up the pitch before Barrow broke through on goal, bursting away from Curtis Davies before coolly slotting beyond Carson.
But back came the Rams, cutting the home side’s joy short when Lawrence’s free-kick fell kindly for captain Keogh to tuck in from deep inside the penalty area.
A set piece from Lawrence almost created a fifth goal as he swerved a powerful on target, but Mannone managed to tip the ball beyond.
Reading also had a chance just before the break to get their noses back in front when Kelly’s corner evaded Liam Moore, but both sides went in at half-time level.
But within a minute of the restart, the net was rippling again. With fans still taking to their seats, Derby pressed high before Lawrence cut in from the left and bundled past Tiago Ilori before lashing across goal to put the visitors 3-2 ahead.
Kelly went for the quick response, shooting again from range but Carson tipped over while his free-kick was also headed wide by Ilori.
But Derby had their tails up and almost opened up a two-goal cushion when Cameron Jerome struck from distance with his rising drive tipped around the post by Mannone. Lawrence delivered the resulting corner to the back post for Jerome, but his header struck the crossbar.
The frantic contest saw Reading on the attack again midway through the second half with the ball worked out to Gunter on the right. He delivered a low cross for a stretching Bodvarsson, but he could not keep his shot on target.
But the Icelander would not be denied for long. Barrow won the ball on the left and drive for the byline before cutting back for Bodvarsson. His initial shot was stopped by Carson, but the striker was there to prod home the rebound.
The next flashpoint arrived with five minutes to play as Baird went in hard on Barrow. The crowd were calling for a red card and referee Tony Harrington duly obliged, sending off the former Reading man, sparking a mass coming together from both sides, leading to Derby keeper Scott Carson also picking up a booking.
Reading piled forwards to try and grab a winner against the 10 men, but the visitors held on.
Stam’s men stay 18th in the table, four points off the relegation zone ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Sheffield United.
READING: Mannone; Gunter (c), Ilori, Moore, Richards; Bacuna; Aluko, Clement (Swift 70), Kelly (McCleary 81), Barrow (Edwards 90+3); Bodvarsson.
Subs not used: Jaakkola, Blackett, van den Berg, Smith.
Goals: Kelly (16), Barrow (32), Bodvarsson (79)
Yellow cards: Richards (49), Moore (82)
DERBY: Carson; Baird, Keogh (c), Davies, Olsson; Huddlestone, Ledley; Weimann, Palmer (Johnson 77), Lawrence (Wisdom 88); Jerome (Nugent 81).
Subs not used: Roos, Pearce, Anya, Thorne.
Goals: Palmer (6), Keogh (35), Lawrence (46)
Yellow cards: Olsson (20), Palmer (50), Keogh (82), Weimann (83), Carson (86)
Red card: Baird (85)
Referee: Tony Harrington
Attendance: 17,647 (inc. 2,855 away)