Lawrence twice puts Town in front but Royals grab a point
Tom Lawrence lit up Portman Road again as he took his goal tally to eight in the last eight games with a brace against high-flying Reading.
The 23-year-old smashed in a trademark superb goal on 42 minutes to give Town the lead at the break.
Jordon Mutch levelled for the third placed Royals early in the second-half before a sublime pass from David McGoldrick sent Lawrence through on goal for an inevitable conclusion and his 10th goal of the campaign.
Reading levelled again on 77 minutes through a terrific volley from Jordan Obita and both sides went for a winner in a thrilling game, with Lawrence going close again in added on time.
Emyr Huws and Steven Taylor came in for their debuts after joining this week, while Toumani Diagouraga was handed his first appearance in a blue shirt at Portman Road as Mick McCarthy made five changes to the side that went down against Derby in midweek.
Josh Emmanuel, another of those changes, showed a touch of wing magic to work his way into the Reading box before sliding his shot at Ali Al-Habsi.
Lawrence sent in a terrific free-kick after McGoldrick had been fouled that was inches away from Christophe Berra, the Leicester loanee then jinking his way into the box before his shot was blocked by Liam Moore.
Jonas Knudsen headed just wide after Emmanuel crossed from the right before Town were forced into an early change with the injured Cole Skuse making way for Grant Ward.
In Reading first foray forward with purpose, John Swift diverted Garath McCleary’s cross over the bar, Emmanuel then linking up well with Ward and Diagouraga but the Academy graduate couldn’t get his shot in.
Bart Bialkowski saved comfortably from Yann Kermorgant’s 20 yarder, Lawrence’s rather more ambitious effort from 35 yards sailing harmlessly wide.
Emmanuel’s cross was destined for McGoldrick until Moore intervened, Huws testing Al Habsi with a sweetly struck left foot effort from the edge of the box.
Emmanuel blocked Obita’s volley inside the Town box, then Huws sent Knudsen in on goal but Al-Habsi was quick off his line and did enough to keep the Danish international out.
Reading couldn’t keep Lawrence out though and three minutes before the break he ripped another blistering strike into the roof of the net after Welsh team-mate Huws had broken 50 yards with the ball.
Reading responded with Liam Kelly firing just over but on the stroke of half-time Town could and probably should have been two ahead, Taylor meeting a Huws corner but heading wide of the far post.
Reading made a change at the break with Lewis Grabban on for Swift, McGoldrick getting the second-half underway with a shot into the sidenetting.
Lawrence was inches away with a curler from the edge of the box as Town threatened a second but it was Reading who struck next, on 52 minutes, Mutch finishing with ease after Grabban set him up.
Danny Williams forced Bialkowski into a flying save as Reading, buoyed by the goal, pressed forward, Kelly then firing over from 25 yards.
Lawrence was denied by desperate Reading defending as he again surged into the box, his shot leading to a scramble before being cleared.
Berra went close with a header at the back post, McGoldrick even closer with a low shot that was well saved by Al-Habsi before the Republic of Ireland international sent Lawrence through in goal with a sublime pass just past the hour and the Welsh wonder did the rest.
Taylor defended brilliantly to guide McCleary’s dangerous cross away from goal when Kermorgant looked certain to score, while at the other end
McGoldrick’s touch was too heavy from Lawrence’s pass and the chance went and moments later Reading were level, Obita sending a brilliant left foot strike into the bottom corner from 25 yards 13 minutes from time.
Taylor again saved Town as Grabban threatened from Kelly’s cross, before Blues won a free-kick 30 yards out, Lawrence sending a right footer over the bar.
Diagouraga and Huws made way for Jordan Spence and Teddy Bishop for the closing stages and Town pressed for a winner with Lawrence crowded out when he looked destined to provide the perfect finish to the 90 minutes.
Town: Bialkowski, Emmanuel, Knudsen, Taylor, Chambers, Berra, Skuse (Ward 20), Diagouraga (Spence 82), Huws (Bishop 82), Lawrence, McGoldrick. Subs not used: Gerken, Pitman, Moore, Sears.
Reading: Al-Habsi, Gunter, Swift (Grabban 46), Obita, McCleary, Moore, Kermorgant, Williams, Blackett, Kelly (Evans 82), Mutch. Subs not used: Jaakkola, Beerens, Meite, Popa, Oxford. Booked: Grabban, Evans.