Southampton secured a third successive win in the Barclays Premier League thanks to a goal in either half at Madejski Stadium.
Saints built on the victories over Liverpool and Chelsea at home to make it three wins in a row for first time this season, and indeed in the top-flight since December 2003 with a solid performance against the team at the bottom of the table, who they beat for the second time in 2012-13.
After a scrappy opening half an hour of action, Saints struck ten minutes before the interval when Jay Rodriguez continued his recent hot streak in front of goal with a strike that owed to his endeavour as he showed more bravery than Royals ‘keeper Adam Federici to slide home his sixth league goal of the campaign.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men never looked back after that strike and although opportunities were limited in the second period, they secured a first away success under the Argentinian manager when substitute Adam Lallana raced through to finish off a Rodriguez assist to secure all three points for the visitors on 72 minutes.
It was Lallana’s 50th career goal for the club which earned Saints their second success at Reading in the league since 1957, the other coming in 2008.
Reading: Federici, Gunter, Kelly, Mariappa, Morrison, Karacan, Akpan (Leigertwood 46), Guthrie (McCleary 62), McAnuff, Robson-Kanu (Hunt 73), Le Fondre. Subs (not used): McCarthy, Harte, Pearce, Pogrebnyak.
Saints: Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Cork, S. Davis (Guly 88), Ramírez (Lallana 63), Lambert, Rodriguez. Subs (not used): K. Davis, Fonte, Fox, Ward-Prowse, Puncheon
Referee: Mike Jones
Attendance: 24,108 (including 2,216 away)
Gaston Ramirez returned to the starting line up for the visitors with Jason Puncheon dropping to the bench in the only change from the team that began against Chelsea.
Adam Lallana was fit enough to take a place amongst the substitutes after missing out last time with a groin injury. Artur Boruc also started after recovering from illness.
Saints got the match underway in the bright sunshine at Madejski Stadium with Steven Davis and Morgan Schneiderlin taking the first touches of the lunchtime kick-off in Berkshire.
It was a competitive opening to the contest as both teams looked to make an early impression on the game with Saints looking to utilise Jay Rodriguez’s pace in the first few advances into Reading’s half.
The Royals created the first real opening though in the fourth minute when Danny Guthrie’s in-swinging delivery from a free-kick on the right was headed over by defender Sean Morrison who arrived late at the far post.
On 11 a neat and penetrating move which started from deep led to Schneiderlin breaking down the right flank, but the Frenchman’s low cross was cleared under pressure from a gaggle of red shirts inside the box.
Two minutes later, Rodriguez burst forward through the centre, but his lay-off to Ramirez was wasted by the Uruguayan who blazed over from distance when he had time to make more of the opportunity.
Soon after, Ramirez nearly made amends with a clever backheel to find Steven Davis inside the box, but the Ulsterman’s attempt to find Rodriguez in the middle was intercepted by the Royals backline as the two teams continued to cancel each other out.
As play reached the 20 minute mark Saints suffered a nervous moment at the back when a series of scuffed attempts to clear the lines from a free-kick fell invitingly to Adam Le Fondre inside the area, but the Reading frontman skewed his shot well over the crossbar.
The hosts rightfully had a penalty appeal turned down before they tested Boruc for the first time as Adrian Mariappa put in a downward header from a cross on the right that the Polish ‘keeper had to spring down to his right to push out to safety.
In the 26th minute Ramirez tried his luck once more with a low strike from range which was off target, but a sublime piece of control to create the chance certainly earned the chance to make something of the move.
A brief pause in play whilst Hope Akpan received treatment for a knock sustained in clearing another Southampton break, but once the action resumed, Saints were back to their creative best as the frontmen began to link up.
A wonderful flowing move involving Lambert, Rodriguez and Davis led to the former cushioning the ball into the path of Ramirez who headed wide.
But the breakthrough goal eventually went the way of the visitors on 35 minutes on the back of some more delightful link up play. Ramirez and Lambert interchanged with RODRIGUEZ who ran into the area to slide the ball in past Federici for his sixth league goal of the season with a toe-poked finish.
From then Saints seemed most likely to score again with Rodriguez almost doubling his money almost immediately when he broke into the box on the right and smashed a fierce rising shot onto the bar at Federici’s near post, with the ‘keeper possibly getting an outstretched hand to the shot.
On 43 Saints could and perhaps should have doubled their lead when Rodriguez again got the better of Mariappa in the Reading defence with a persistent run that led to a shot which was beaten out by Federici, and Ramirez could only find the side netting from the rebound out to him inside the area.
A 1-0 lead at the break meant that Saints still had work to do, but seemed buoyed by Reading’s lack of a goal threat since they took the lead.
Half Time: Reading 0-1 Saints
Mikele Leigertwood was introduced for the second period in place of Hope Akpan as the Royals got the new started.
Saints maintained their control on the match in midfield and continued to look to Rodriguez as an outlet, though it was Lambert who pulled the strings for the first opportunity of the second 45 as he played Steven Davis into the area with a terrific chip, but the Northern Irishman’s finish was straight at Federici.
Further advances involving Davis and Schneidelrin deserved better as Saints’ final touches let them down inside the Reading area, but the red shirts remained the more likely to strike again.
And they almost did on the hour mark when Rodriguez bided his time on the left before drilling in a low cross which Lambert was a matter of inches away from connecting to as he threw himself towards the ball inside the six yard box.
In the 62nd minute former Saints loanee Danny Guthrie was replaced by Garath McCleary for the hosts, with Pochettino following up with a switch of his own as Adam Lallana came on for Ramirez a minute later.
Lallana was instantly involved in an attack which led to Rodriguez putting in a low cross which first Lambert, and then Schneiderlin were close to diverting goalwards, but the Royals held out to clear.
As Saints began to dictate play on the deck, a fine series of passes led to Rodriguez attempting an ambitious volley from range after he had set himself up to strike from range, but the effort went wide.
He was however, instrumental in the second goal for the visitors as the striker cleverly interchanged with substitute LALLANA who kept his head inside the box to finish low past Federici for 2-0 on 72 minutes.
Reading immediately changed Hal Robson-Kanu with Noel Hunt replacing him, and moments later went close to halving the deficit when Le Fondre’s header was dropped on the line by the ‘keeper but cleared by the visitors.
A brief spell of pressure form Nigel Adkins’ side was tidied up by Boruc, as the Royals looked broken by the second goal entering the final ten minutes of play.
Guly replaced Steven Davis for the final couple of minutes and blazed over in stoppage time from a Clyne cross, but no further chances arrived in the three additional minutes of injury time.
Full Time: Reading 0-2 Saints