Junior Hoillett must have thought he had done enough to secure Reading the win after he netted either side of the interval, but a late fightback was enough to break Reading hearts.
Derby boss Wayne Rooney was not in the dugout for the game after displaying cold-like symptoms, despite testing negative for COVID-19.
It was former Royals player Liam Rosenior who led Derby on the day in Rooney’s absence.
Story of The Match
Reading, who had not played since the 11th of December due to a COVID outbreak at the club, did not look like a side who had not played in over 3 weeks as they applied pressure on the Derby backline from the kick off.
Craig Forsyth was on hand to get an important touch on the ball to put it out of play to deny Andy Carroll a header.
Phil Jagielka had the first attempted shot on goal, as he swung at the ball on the half volley from the edge of the box but missed completely.
Soon after the ball was cut back to Max Bird, who fired over the bar.
The opening stages of the game were relatively quiet, but it was the Rams enjoying more of the ball early on.
In the 18th minute Ryan Allsop was on hand to make a great save to deny Carroll, who aimed a header for the far-left corner but the Rams’ keeper was equal to it.
Tyrell Ashcroft appeared to have an issue with his vision, which caused some concern for Veljko Paunović and his side, but fortunately the full back was able to continue.
Luke Plange forced a save from Luke Southwood in goal for Reading, as his effort was deflected but it was palmed away by the keeper.
Ashcroft made an important block to deny Kamil Jóźwiak on the volley.
The Polish winger had looked to open the scoring after a weak punch from Southwood from a corner had seen the ball fall to him.
Junior Hoillett put Reading in front against the run of play in some style in the 38th minute.
Carroll knocked the ball down to the Canadian from a long ball, and he curled a wonderful strike into the top-right hand corner from the edge of the box.
Jason Knight attempted to get a fast response for the visitors, but his deflected effort went behind for a corner.
The resulting corner found Plange unmarked, but his header did not manage to threaten Southwood’s goal.
A moment of magic from Hoillett was the difference between the sides at the interval, as despite Derby’s control of the ball, it was the hosts who led at the break in the bottom the table clash.
Half time score: Reading 1-0 Derby County
Substitute Felipe Araruna had to be alert to put a cross from Nathan Byrne out of play in the 49th minute.
The Brazilian, who replaced Ashcroft at half time, made his first appearance since the 26th of September 2020, when he suffered a freak injury that saw him sidelined for over 15 months.
Southwood made a smart stop to deny a driving effort from Tom Lawrence as Derby pushed for an equaliser.
It was Hoillett however that got his brace in the 55th minute for Reading.
Another direct pass was flicked on to the former QPR and Cardiff City player, who squeezed the ball between between Allsop's legs to double the hosts' lead.
Jóźwiak put the ball in the back of the net for Derby, but the flag was up to deny his shot which nestled into the bottom left hand corner from counting.
Derby continued to put the Royals' defence under pressure, often by working the ball wide and attempting to cross the ball into the box.
Byrne skipped past a few challenges and attempted to cross, but once again Reading were able to clear the ball away.
Southwood had to be alert to deny Derby getting a goal back in what would have been fortuitous circumstances, as Festy Ebolsele's run was cleared into a crowd of bodies that almost ricocheted its way in.
Substitute Ravel Morrison had a shot from range that went well wide as the game entered the final 15 minutes.
The visitors had appeals for a penalty waved away in the 81st minute, as Derby claimed a cross had hit a Reading hand, but the referee waved the claims away.
Colin Kazim-Richards came off the bench to give the Rams hope in the 86th minute, as Southwood flapped at a cross that left the striker with an empty net to head into, halving the deficit.
Bird had a big chance in the 88th minute on the half volley to snatch a point for Rosenior, but he blasted his effort over the upright.
Femi Azeez had the chance to seal the deal for Reading on the counter attack, but his effort went wide.
He was made to pay soon after, as Curtis Davies headed in a floated cross to equalise in the 90th minute and get a big goal for Derby, breaking Reading hearts.
Full time secured Derby a late point on their travels, having had control of the game but nothing to show for it until two late goals turned the tie on its head.
Reading: Southwood, Ashcroft (Araruna 45’), Rahman, Dann, Holmes, Laurrent ©, Dele-Bashiru, Hoillett, Halilovic (Azeez 65'), Swift (Camara 89'), Carroll.
Derby County: Allsop, Byrne, Forsyth (Ebosele 58'), Jagielka, Jozwiak, Bird, Lawrence ©, Davies, Knight (Morrison 67'), Thompson, Plange (Kazim-Richards 58').
Referee: John Busby