Irish international Kevin Doyle put Reading ahead for his third goal in as many games, with a fine first half penalty strike after Fulham’s Ian Pearce got sent off for a challenge in the penalty box, on Doyle, in only the 17th minuete.
But then Fulham came back into it after the break with Claus Jensen’s strike well stopped by the Royals Marcus Hahnemann and Collins John heading over from close range.
The game started at a good, lively pace here in west London with both sides tentatively prodding at each others’ defences.
But Fulham boss Chris Coleman was soon showing his anger on the sidelines as Reading took the best early chances.
Liam Rosenior was forced to clear his lines in amazing acrobatic style for Fulham after only five minutes before the visitors finally made their pressure tell.
Reading’s Glen Little crossed the ball over the top for James Harper to chase on the right and his low cross was timed to perfection for Doyle to burst onto. But, then Pearce stretched out a leg but only succeeded in bringing down the Irishman Doyle for which he was duly sent-off by referee Dermot Gallagher. And Doyle then sent Antti Niemi the wrong way in a sweet penalty strike for his third goal in as many Premiership games.
Brian McBride had Fulham’s best chance to equalise when he met a curling cross from England under 21 international Liam Rosenior, but he was denied by an excellent parry by fellow USA international Marcus Hahnemann.
Reading nearly went two in front when Fulham’s Zat Knight flicked the ball over his own crossbar from Graham Murty’s cross.
But they were also given plenty to think about with injuries to two influential players. First, midfielder Steve Sidwell was forced off after 33 minutes after failing to shake off an earlier injury, to be replaced by Icelandic international Brynjar Gunnarsson. Then John Oster had to be thrown on by Royals boss Steve Coppell, three minutes later when the hard-working Glen Little limped off the pitch.
Craven Cottage was starting to resemble a battlefield after Franck Queudrue also limped off 10 minutes later, to be replaced by American Carlos Bocanegra, forming Fulham’s third defensive partnership of the afternoon.
But the home side rallied as half-time approached with Collins John dribbling his way to within sight of goal only to be denied by Ingarmarsson’s timely interception.
Manager Coleman sent his side out early for the second half, hoping to inject some much-needed passion.
Tomasz Radzinski and McBridge had good chances to redress the balance for the Cottagers, who had failed to score in just one of their previous seven Premiership matches.
But as the hosts pressed forward they became exposed at the back and nearly conceded again when Ki-Hyeon Seol’s cross was knocked over the bar by Oster from six yards.
Coleman was throwing on substitutes with abundance when he brought Wayne Routledge and Papa Boupa Diop for Radsinski and the ineffective Michael Brown.
McBride nearly netted a spectacular equaliser near the end, but his rasping 25-yard drive drifted just wide.
Doyle was denied a second with just minutes to go by the feet of Niemi and it was Reading who finished the stronger as Fulham slumped to their third home defeat of the season.
Line – up’s:
Fulham: Niemi, Knight, Pearce, Rosenior, Queudrue, Claus Jensen, Brown, Boa Morte, John, McBride, Radzinski.
Subs: Lastuvka, Bocanegra, Papa Bouba Diop, Routledge, Helguson.
Reading: Hahnemann, Ingimarsson, Murty, Shorey, Sonko, Hunt, Sidwell, Little, Harper, Seol, Doyle.
Subs: Federici, Bikey, Gunnarsson, Oster, Lita.
Always Dependable. 7.
Solid Enough. 6.
Early Bath. 3.
VITAL FULHAM’S MAN OF THE MATCH.
Quick Injury, Not Enough Time. 6.
Very Solid. 7.
No Impact. 5.
Good Running. 6.
Should Have Scored. 7.
Battled Well. 8.
Committed Performance. 7.
Papa Bouba Diop. (SUB)
Not Enough Time. 6.
Not Enough Time. 6.