READING FC took a step towards moving out of the League One relegation zone with a Femi Azeez stunner and a Sam Smith goal helping them to three points against Wigan Athletic.
Azeez hit a rocket past goalkeeper Sam Tickle to give the Royals a half-time advantage before Smith doubled the lead quickly after the restart.
The win puts Reading up to 21st place where they are now just one point off catching 20th Exeter City.
There was just one change in Ruben Selles’ line-up from the draw at Lincoln City which saw captain Andy Yiadom replaced by Amadou Mbengue.
In the final home game of 2023, the Royals were looking to build a platform to safety, heading into the game in 23rd position in League One.
Reading v Wigan Athletic Pictures: Steve Smyth and Luke Adams
Wigan had the better of the opening 10 minutes in which Reading continued to give the ball away carelessly.
Amadou Mbengue had to come racing across and put in a crunching tackle to amend for Jeriel Dorsett’s loose pass into midfield.
After winning a few early corners, the Latics couldn’t quite scramble the ball into the net after some pinball in the Reading box which was eventually averted from danger.
Another melee in the box was then rescued as David Button managed to take the ball in his clutches.
The best move of the game so far came in the 25th minute from the hosts when Femi Azeez switched the ball out to the left-wing to find Paul Mukairu. He waited patiently to find the reverse ball as Azeez broke into the box but had his shot blocked behind by Liam Morrison.
After Nelson Abbey stepped confidently out of defence to nick the ball from Wigan, Azeez got Reading on the front foot.
Evidently more confident having broken his scoring drought a few weeks back, Azeez produced the best piece of quality of the half to separate the sides with the games opening goal.
Lewis Wing’s touch fell into the path of Azeez from 25 yards and with a strike of the highest calibre, he blazed a shot which flew past the reach of Sam Tickle to score an exceptional opener.
Shaun Maloney’s side should have had themselves on terms before the break when a mix up in defence between Abbey and Tom Holmes gave Wigan a chance to swing in a cross and find an unmarked Charlie Wyke in the middle, who somehow completely miscued his header off target.
Wigan were given an early yellow card after the restart when Sean Clare chopped down Mukairu on the left-wing.
The Royals doubled their advantage to make a strong start to the second-half.
Amadou Mbengue dug out an excellent cross from the right to pick out Smith in the middle and he connected first time to caress the ball into the corner to net his sixth goal of the campaign.
Wigan should have halved Reading’s lead when Callum McManaman stole possession from Abbey, but the Royals defender was reduced by his goalkeeper David Button who produced a fine stop.
The Latics then had a chance with a free-kick from Callum Lang that whistled just past the post.
Selles’ first switch came in the 72nd minute as goalscorer Azeez was replaced by Ben Elliott.
A trio of late changes then came with a little over five minutes remaining as Tyler Bindon, Clinton Mola and Charlie Savage replaced Mukairu, Abbey and Mbengue.
Reading controlled the final moments of the game with relative ease to earn a clean sheet and three precious point to move up two places in the table.
Next up for Reading is a trip to fellow relegation battlers Cheltenham town on Friday, December 29 before they host Exeter City on New Year’s Day.
Reading: Button, Mbengue, Holmes, Abbey, Dorsett, Craig, Wing, Knibbs, Mukairu, Azeez, Smith
Subs: Pereira, Mola, Elliott, Savage, Ehibhatiomhan, Bindon, Vickers
Wigan: Tickle, McHugh, Clare, Morrison, Sessegnon, Smith, Shaw, Jones, Lang, McManaman, Wyke
Subs: Amos, Watts, Adeeko, J Smith, Sze, Humphreys, Magennis
Goals: Azeez 34’, Smith 50’