Two goals in the space of six first half minutes gave Jose Gomes’ Reading the points at the Madejski Stadium despite a late goal for PNE.
Yakou Meite put the ball into the net from Mo Barrow’s left-wing cross, before Barrow himself capitalised at the back to give the hosts a two-goal deficit at half-time.
North End weren’t helped by picking up injuries to Brandon Barker and Ben Pearson as they looked to get back into the game after the break, but grabbed a goal in the second minute of stoppage time to make it a tense finale, with Jayden Stockley firing home after Sean Maguire had hit the post.
Manager Alex Neil made three changes to the side that beat Birmingham City late on, with Callum Robinson making his first start since November, Josh Earl coming in for Andrew Hughes and Paul Gallagher returning – with the captain’s armband – in place of Stockley.
After a tense opening half an hour to the game the hosts took it by the scruff of the neck in the final 15 minutes of the first period.
The opener came on 30 minutes as Mo Barrow raced down the left channel and pulled the ball across the six-yard box for Meite to slide in put the ball home from close range into the bottom right hand corner.
And six minutes later it was 2-0 as this time Barrow went from provider to scorer as he collected a short back pass is and slotted home into an empty net from close range.
And it was only through some excellent goalkeeping that kept it at two in the final of the regular minutes as Ovie Ejaria fired against the right-hand post with a brilliant finger-tip save from Declan Rudd to prevent it being three, the loanee twisting and turning before shooting from the left edge of the ‘D’.
This meant a change up at the interval from the manager, with Stockley and Brandon Barker both introduced, with the returning Robinson and Lukas Nmecha coming off.
And Barker almost had an immediate reaction, racing past Yiadom down the left and putting the ball right into the centre of the Royals penalty area, only for it to be scrambled away and Darnell Fisher’s follow up cross flashing across the face of goal without a touch.
However, the Lilywhites suffered a blow when Barker was forced off before the hour mark with an injury, with Louis Moult replacing him.
Moult tested Martinez in the Reading goal with just over 20 minutes left, after Gallagher’s ball forwarded had been headed back into the striker’s path by Maguire, part of the three-pronged attack now operating in attack for the green and yellows.
More bad news saw the visitors forced to play the last 20 minutes virtually with ten men, with Ben Pearson struggling to move in the middle of the park, but unable to be substituted due to the earlier changes and subsequent injury.
Gallagher got onto one of Stockley’s knock downs – from Jordan Storey’s ball forward – finding space ten yards out to the right of goal, but he was unable to find the target with his driven cross.
Pearson was finally forced off in the final five minutes, after struggling through 20 minutes, after a lung-busting recovery run to prevent a breakaway by Reading substitute Garath McCleary.
There was a tense finale to come though as in the second of four added minutes Stockley fired home on the half volley after Maguire had smashed a shot against the post.
There was even a chance for an equaliser, as Earl powered a header in from Fisher's right wing cross, but it flashed past the left-hand upright and it wasn't to be for the visitors and despite their best efforts the Lilywhites lost their first game since New Year’s Day.
Reading line-up: Martinez, Moore (c), Swift (McShane, 65), Baker, Barrow (McCleary, 58), Ejaria (Harriott, 89), Miazga, Meite, Blackett, Rinomhota. Subs not used: Walker, Gunter, Harriott, Oliveira, Olise.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Fisher, Earl, Pearson, Storey, Davies, Nmecha (Stockley, 46), Gallagher, Maguire, Johnson, Robinson (Barker, 46 (Moult, 58)). Subs not used: Crowe, Rafferty, Ledson, Huntington.
Attendance: 16,771 (1,816 PNE fans)
Referee: Mr T Harrington