Derby County fought back from two goals behind to secure a late 2-2 draw against Reading at the Select Car Leasing Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday.
A bullet header from Rams defender Curtis Davies ensured the points were shared against the Royals as Derby battled back to score twice in the final five minutes.
Colin Kazim-Richards had reduced the arrears on 85 minutes as he headed home from close range after goalkeeper Luke Southwell had failed to collect a cross.
Junior Hoilett had fired Reading into a two-goal lead, scoring either side of half time, however, Davies’ goal ensured Derby came away with a valuable point against their relegation rivals.
Manager Wayne Rooney missed the game through illness, but named an unchanged side from the 2-1 victory over Stoke City.
Reading entered the game having not played since Saturday 11th December as both sides enjoyed spells of possession throughout the half.
Derby’s first effort at goal came 16 minutes into the game as Max Bird fired over from 25 yards after good football from the Rams.
But, an incredible save from goalkeeper Ryan Allsop and defending from both Curtis Davies and Phil Jagielka prevented the Rams from falling a goal behind two minutes later.
John Swift’s cross found the head of Andy Carroll, who headed powerfully into the floor. However, Allsop’s strong arm managed to save his initial effort and a combination of Jagielka and Davies denied Hoilett the chance to open the scoring for the Royals.
The Rams started to take control of the half as they dominated the midfield battle, with Liam Thompson, Max Bird and Jason Knight seeing a lot of the ball.
Just after the half hour mark, Tom Lawrence was afforded space in midfield as he found Luke Plange on the edge of the box. The striker took one touch to set himself and unleashed an effort from 18-yards which was palmed behind by Reading goalkeeper Luke Southwood.
Craig Forsyth and Knight combined on the left soon after but the latter’s cross was just behind the onrushing strikers, whilst Kamil Jozwiak saw a shot deflected wide.
However, slightly against the run of play, Reading took the lead. A long ball forward from Southwood was headed on by Andy Carroll into the path of Hoilett.
The forward cut inside and unleashed a left-footed effort which beat Allsop and found the corner to put the Royals ahead.
Derby maybe should have hit back before the break as Bird’s corner found an unmarked Plange six yards from goal but the striker headed over from close range as Reading led at the break.
After the interval, Thompson saw an effort blocked from 25 yards, whilst Reading goalkeeper Southwood made a good stop to deny Lawrence.
It was a good move from the Rams who worked the ball out to the right. Byrne laid it back to the Rams’ skipper but the strong arm of the Reading shot stopper denied Derby an equaliser.
And they were punished a minute later as the Royals doubled their advantage with Hoilett grabbing his second of the afternoon.
A free kick into the box was headed on at the far post and it found Hoilett lurking and he made no mistake from close range.
Derby had the ball in the back of the net soon afternoon but Jozwiak’s effort was ruled out for offside. It was a strong run from Bird which presented the chance, but he held on to the ball slightly too long and the opportunity was lost.
Liam Rosenior, who took the team in the absence of the manager, introduced Colin Kazim-Richards, Festy Ebosele and Ravel Morrison and all three added a new dimension to Derby’s attack.
Ebosele added pace whilst Kazim-Richards, who had scored the winner in the Rams’ last two victories offered a physical presence in attack. Both made an impact, as did Morrison who went close on two occasions.
The midfielder unleashed a powerful effort from 25 yards which was saved by Southwood at the second attempt, whilst his second effort went wide.
Morrison was proving to be at the centre of the game as he regularly got on the ball to try and make something happen. He set up Davies whose effort was deflected for a Rams corner.
And it was from that set piece in which the Rams pulled a goal back. Bird’s initial corner was cleared back to him and he whipped a ball into the box which Southwood missed and Kazim-Richards headed home from close range.
The momentum was with the Rams as the searched for the equaliser. Bird fired over the crossbar from the edge of the box as Derby battled for an equaliser.
And they managed to grab that equaliser in the first minute of additional time as an unstoppable header from Davies ensured the points were shared.
An inch-perfect cross from Nathan Byrne found the head of the central defender, who had stayed forward in the hope of a getting a chance, and his bullet header found the bottom corner to ensure the points were shared.
Reading: Southwood, Holmes, Halilovic (Azeez 65’), Carroll, Swift (Camara 89’), Dele-Bashiru, Rahman Baba, Hoilett, Dann, Laurent (C), Ashcroft (Araruna 46’).
Substitutes: Cabral, Stickland, Clarke, Puscas.
Derby County: Allsop, Byrne, Forsyth (Ebosele 57’), Jagielka, Jozwiak, Bird, Lawrence (C), Davies, Knight (Morrison 67’), Thompson, Plange (Kazim-Richards 57’).
Substitutes: Roos, Baldock, Stearman, Williams.