Adam Le Fondre scored twice within seven minutes of his introduction as a substitute to transform a possible 1-0 loss into an unlikely 2-1 victory for Reading away at Newcastle United.
Yohan Cabaye put Newcastle in front with a sumptuous free-kick on his first start for two months and Alan Pardew's side looked to be set for an important victory on a day when it was revealed their French ranks are to swell further with the capture of Montpellier captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
But it was instead a striker born in Stockport, albeit with a French grandfather, who made the decisive contribution to the tie as Le Fondre struck on 71 and 77 minutes, the first of which was tinged with controversy, to turn the match on its head.
Reading's first away win of the season moves them out of the bottom three on goal difference, while Newcastle, nursing another damaging result, are only two points ahead of Brian McDermott's resurgent side, who only last week came from 2-0 down to beat West Brom.
Cabaye was one of two changes to Pardew's Newcastle side as he made his first start since suffering a groin injury in November. The France international was quickly back to his influential best, one early free-kick finding Mike Williamson at the back post, only for the centre-back to swing and miss the ball completely.
Relishing taking responsibility for set-pieces and taking possession in the centre of the pitch, Cabaye then chipped a lovely pass through the centre of the Reading defence to find Papiss Cisse, who saw his first-time header palmed away by a fantastic reflex save from Adam Federici in the Reading goal.
It became a recurring theme and Cisse - restored to the centre of the attack following the sale of Demba Ba to Chelsea - was denied again when he spun to thump a volley at the Reading keeper after Sylvain Marveaux headed the ball into his path. Federici then excelled himself on the half-hour mark when expertly spreading his body to stop Cisse from tapping in from 10 yards following a cross from Mathieu Debuchy.
Reading were restricted to few chances - the most promising of which saw Pavel Pogrebnyak slide in and turn the ball wide from 15 yards after Garath McCleary led a quick break down the Newcastle right - and Brian McDermott's side were relying on the impressive Federici to keep them level. After 36 minutes, though, the keeper was beaten.
The impressive Marveaux surged through the Reading midfield to win a free-kick 20 yards from goal and Cabaye clipped a delicious curling effort over the wall and under the bar as Federici was left stationary, his otherwise fine afternoon's work undone by a moment of magic from Newcastle's returning hero.
As Cabaye's energy waned in the second half, though, so did Newcastle's dominance. Reading began to take hold of the game and should have equalised when Jimmy Kebe headed the ball into the path of Pogrebnyak, who again suffered from a lack of composure when lashing his half-volley high over the bar.
The momentum swerved definitively in Reading's favour on 70 minutes though when McDermott replaced Danny Guthrie with Le Fondre, and inside a minute he had levelled in contentious circumstances.
Mikele Leigertwood picked out Kebe in the right channel with a fantastic searching pass and the winger's low cross caught Williamson off balance. As he attempted to hook the ball clear, the falling Le Fondre caught the ball with a combination of torso and arm and saw it sneak over the line.
Within six minutes he had a second. Kebe was influential again as he headed down a deep cross at the back post and after debutant Hope Akpan swung and missed the ball, Le Fondre pounced to tuck a lovely curling effort out of the reach of Krul.
As a visibly tiring Cabaye had been taken off in between Le Fondre's goals - to howls of frustration from the home fans - Newcastle subsequently suffered from a lack of invention as they sought to get something, anything, from a game they had earlier been cruising in.
But when they finally did create a clear-cut opportunity in the final minutes as James Perch headed the ball into the path of Cisse, the striker was guilty of a horrendous finish, smashing the ball over the bar after having plucked it delicately out of the air.
It was a fitting end to a disaster of a second half for Pardew and his players, and a record of two wins in 14 league games does not augur well for what could now be a lengthy relegation struggle.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Adam Le Fondre (Reading): Who else but the Reading striker? His two goals completely transformed the game, though he twice benefitted from fine work from the impressive Kebe.
NEWCASTLE: Krul 6, Debuchy 6, Williamson 5, Coloccini 6, Santon 6, Cabaye 7, Anita 5, Shola Ameobi 5, Marveaux 6, Gutierrez 5, Cisse 4. Subs: Perch 6, Bigirimana 5, Obertan 5.
READING: Federici 8, Kelly 6, Mariappa 6, Pearce 6, Harte 6, Guthrie 6, Leigertwood, Kebe 8, McAnuff 6, McCleary 7, Pogrebnyak 5. Subs: Akpan 5, Le Fondre 8.
- Sports & Recreation