As Pavel Pogrebnyak lashed in Reading’s fourth, the scoreline looked like a hammering for Doncaster Rovers.
But on the balance of play, a 52-48 per cent possession figure in favour of the Royals - with seven out of 17 shots on target compared to Doncaster’s five from 13 - shows that Paul Dickov’s side were not exactly ‘thrashed’ despite losing 4-1.
Admittedly, this could have been a very different story in the first 20 minutes.
A Rovers outfit, with just two changes as James Coppinger and Richie Wellens came into the side that beat Leicester City 1-0, looked a different team to that which out-foxed the Foxes as the opening exchanges ensued at the Madejski Stadium.
They struggled to get the ball out of their own half as the Royals rallied.
Reading used their 5-3-2 formation well, with wing-backs Wayne Bridge and Chris Gunter attempting to exploit the flanks.
Reece Wabara, in his new-found left-back spot, had his work cut out early on as Gunter and Garath McCleary combined down the right to drive the ball into the box in the fourth minute.
Moments later, the impressive Jordan Obita confidently struck a rising effort from outside of the area as Nigel Adkins’ men pressed on.
The early pressure soon paid off in the 11th minute when Pogrebnyak, who caused problems throughout, got himself into a good position down the left, found McCleary who laid the ball off to Danny Guthrie. With no second invite, the former Newcastle United man used power to place a shot into the roof of the net.
Reading looked confident and sprayed the ball around the park well as Adam Le Fondre continued his fox in the box-like qualities - a diving header which was deflected the wrong side of Ross Turnbull’s right-hand post signalling his return to Royals action.
Then came a moment Turnbull will no doubt savour. The 28-year-old somehow got down to his right to sweep away a sliding Obita effort from the line which looked destined for 2-0 Reading.
Watching on as his side soaked up the pressure, Dickov pulled an ace from his sleeve as he took Dean Furman off and switched his 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 formation, with Theo Robinson coming on to partner Chris Brown.
That tactical change from the former Oldham Athletic man was a bold move but one which halted the hosts’ progress dramatically.
Reading could only create a half-chance from a Guthrie drive before Rovers equalised.
As the visitors pushed up the pitch, an attack led to a handball from Alex Pearce on the edge of the area. Mark Duffy wrapped his right boot around the ball which brought Adam Federici to full stretch to parry to his left, however, Robinson was the grateful receiver and rifled in from an angle for 1-1.
That goal stunned Reading who had, until the formation change, dominated the game and now found themselves playing with nerves.
A McCleary drive on goal and a Khumalo header at the other end were both contenders for putting their sides into the lead.
However, it was the home side who capitalised before half time when Rovers struggled to deal with the impressive McCleary. His surging run towards goal was the perfect tonic for Le Fondre to out-smart his marker which he did clincally as he latched on to the midfielder’s cute throughball and slid the ball past an advancing Turnbull.
Rovers headed into the break 2-1 down but by no means out of the contest.
Re-entering the field, Robinson took no time in bringing a save from Federici at his near-post, but the effort was tame and never really going to trouble the Reading man who was enjoying his first start of the season.
A Le Fondre chance went begging as his frustration was apparent, knowing that they needed to take their chances if they were to claim a maximum points haul against the resilient Rovers.
With 15 minutes to spare, the turning point of the game came when Rob Jones went down injured following a collision in the box. Ending up floored in the back of the net, the usually stoic centre-back was struggling to get to his feet as he clutched his arm.
In obvious pain, the defender was sent to the tunnel for treatment but with that incident, came the realisation that Doncaster had used all three substitutes and had to play the remainder of the game with 10 men.
And this is where Nigel Adkins’ men made their numerical advantage count as McCleary sent a low drive across Turnbull’s left and into the bottom corner with 10 minutes to play just minutes after Jones’ departure.
Rovers were rocked but still put up a fight and continued to try and play football - a message Dickov has drilled into the club since day one.
But a Robinson effort into the side netting was the best Doncaster could muster as Reading pressed the away side deep into their own half in the closing stages.
Paul Quinn’s blushes were spared late on as his sliced clearance was collected by Turnbull before a defensive mix-up was pounced on by the threatening Pogrebnyak as he smashed in the fourth in the seventh minute of injury time.
Rovers showed resilience as two contrasting assessments of the game followed with Dickov feeling ‘aggrieved’ about the scoreline and Adkins admitting they could have scored more.