Match ends, Reading 0, Middlesbrough 1.
George Friend moved Middlesbrough up to fourth in the Championship as his goal earned them an unconvincing win at struggling Reading.
Jonny Howson combined with Paddy McNair, who teed up Friend to slam home late on and give manager Tony Pulis his first league win in five matches.
It was harsh on the Royals, who had carried the greater threat for much of a quiet game.
Boro goalkeeper Darren Randolph denied Sam Baldock with an outstretched leg and pushed Omar Richards' shot around the post as Reading remained winless in seven matches.
It is a run they will hope to improve following the appointment of Jose Gomes as their new manager following the game.
Middlesbrough's stingy defence are the tightest in the Championship, with just 16 goals conceded in 23 matches, but they had been unusually generous of late, shipping six of that total in the three previous league games.
But they were back on song at the Madejski Stadium as Aden Flint made a terrific block to stop Leandro Bacuna firing the hosts ahead shortly before Friend struck against the run of play.
Friend, who scored for the first time in four-and-a-half months, almost made it two in 10 minutes when he hit the bar, but one goal ultimately proved enough.
Middlesbrough move up two places to fourth and within six points of the automatic promotion places, while Reading stay 21st, out of the bottom three on goal difference only.
Reading caretaker boss Scott Marshall:
"I believe that there is something going on here. I've really enjoyed the experience. I've really enjoyed getting to know the players as a group.
"In the game, we had a couple of really good chances. It was always going to be important to get the first goal as Boro have got a great defensive record.
"We dominated the game for large periods and we had some good moments, especially in the second half.
"I would have loved us to have got in front. It would have been an entirely different game."
Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis:
"When things are going well, everyone gets too excited. When things aren't going well, everyone gets down in the dumps.
"Week in, week out, it's tough and it's hard. But we've got an honest group.
"We need to add to it because there's a lack of real pace and power that we need to find.
"If we can do that, then we'll push on and we'll be fine. If we don't, then every game is going to be a tough one."
- 24BlackettBooked at 90mins
- 27RichardsSubstituted forBödvarssonat 85'minutes
- 35RinomhotaBooked at 73mins
- 19SimsSubstituted forMcClearyat 82'minutes
- 43LoaderSubstituted forSwiftat 70'minutes
- 5ShottonSubstituted forMcNairat 38'minutes
- 37BesicBooked at 41minsSubstituted forWingat 66'minutes
- 22SavilleBooked at 79mins
- 9AssombalongaSubstituted forHugillat 67'minutes
- Steve Martin
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Reading 0, Middlesbrough 1.
Attempt missed. Tyler Blackett (Reading) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is just a bit too high. Assisted by Jón Dadi Bödvarsson following a corner.
Attempt missed. Gabriel Osho (Reading) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Andy Yiadom with a headed pass following a corner.
Attempt blocked. Andy Yiadom (Reading) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Andy Rinomhota.
Corner, Reading. Conceded by George Friend.
Attempt missed. Leandro Bacuna (Reading) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Modou Barrow.
Andy Yiadom (Reading) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jonny Howson (Middlesbrough).
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Tyler Blackett (Reading) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Delay in match Dael Fry (Middlesbrough) because of an injury.
Foul by Tyler Blackett (Reading).
Jordan Hugill (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Corner, Reading. Conceded by Aden Flint.
Foul by Sam Baldock (Reading).
George Friend (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Garath McCleary (Reading) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by John Swift.
Attempt missed. Lewis Wing (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right following a corner.
George Friend (Middlesbrough) hits the bar with a left footed shot from very close range following a corner.