Lucas Joao and Michael Morrison ensured Reading returned to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Bristol City at Ashton Gate, a result that saw the Robins sack boss Dean Holden.
It was a sixth successive defeat for Holden, and it led to his departure after the game.
A club statement read: “Dean Holden has been relieved of his duties with immediate effect. Following a sixth successive defeat, the Bristol City Board have decided that a change of Head Coach is necessary. Assistant Head Coaches Paul Simpson and Keith Downing will take charge of training until further notice.
“The club would like to thank Dean for his service to the club over the years and we wish him well for the future. There will be no further comment at this stage.”
Joao was allowed time to control Michael Olise’s 42nd-minute free-kick from the right before coolly slotting his 20th goal of the season with a right-footed finish from eight yards.
Three minutes later, Morrison exchanged passes with Joao on the edge of the box before eluding some weak challenges to force the ball past Daniel Bentley from close range.
Reading had opportunities to increase their lead after the break, while lifeless City barely created a worthwhile chance.
Owner Steve Lansdown had warned before the game that a rapid transformation in form was necessary if changes were not to be implemented.
Under-pressure Holden made three changes from the 6-0 thrashing at Watford, bringing in Adrian Mariappa, Adam Nagy and Nahki Wells for Ryley Towler, Han-Noah Massengo and Antoine Semenyo.
Reading boss Veljko Paunovic made the same number of changes following his side’s 2-1 home defeat by Millwall, selecting Andy Yiadom, Tomas Esteves and Omar Richards instead of Tom Holmes, Josh Laurent and Lewis Gibson.
Neither side were able to create much in a mistake-prone opening half-hour, but Reading looked the more threatening with Omar Richards having a shot deflected wide.
From the resulting corner, Olise’s shot was blocked. At the other end, there was nothing to test goalkeeper Rafael Cabral as City worked hard to little effect.
Pressure from the visitors grew, with Ovie Ejaria’s shot deflected just wide and Jack Hunt clearing off the line from Richards.
Then came the two goals in three minutes and Holden left the dug-out at half-time knowing his job was hanging by a thread.
His team began the second half on the front foot, Famara Diedhiou having a shot deflected wide and Tomas Kalas forcing a save from Cabral with a header from the resulting corner.
But soon Reading were looking the more dangerous side again. Holden reacted by sending on Semenyo, Kasey Palmer and Tyreeq Bakinson on 66 minutes, withdrawing Jamie Paterson, Henri Lansbury and Zak Vyner.
Still it was the visitors dominating, as an Esteves shot was blocked and Bentley produced a good save to keep out Tom McIntyre’s near-post flick.
Reading looked every inch promotion contenders, while City, badly hit by injuries, have totally lost their way after a bright start to the season.
What the managers said…
Reading’s Veljko Paunovic: “It is great for Lucas Joao to achieve the important 20-goal landmark with so many games to go and I am sure there are many more to come. He has so much going for him in terms of ability and confidence. But it is the team who make him special and every player contributed tonight to a tremendous performance.
“It was important we bounced back quickly after two defeats and the players showed a lot of character to get us back on track. We knew we were facing a team going through a difficult period so it was sure to be a tough game. But we handled that brilliantly and scored two beautiful goals.
“Morrison’s was my favourite of the season. He is so brave getting forward and once he spotted a gap his determination took him through to score. Overall, I was delighted with the performance and result.”