YANN Kermorgant sent Reading to Wembley with the winner against Fulham in the Championship play-off semi-finals.
The Frenchman converted a 49th minute penalty after Tomas Kalas handballed to secure a 1-0 victory in the second leg on the night and 2-1 victory overall.
It was Kermorgant's 10th goal in 10 games and his 19th of a remarkable season that sees Royals one more win away from promotion to the Premier League, with either Sheffield Wednesday or Huddersfield Town awaiting in the final on May 29.
And whatever happens on that Bank Holiday Monday, manager Jaap Stam has exceeded all expectation during a campaign where mid-table stability appeared the best Royals could hope for.
Now, those same hardy supporters will be dreaming of the big time once again, four years after the club last graced the top flight.
This was Reading’s 11th match unbeaten at Madejski Stadium and although Fulham were favourites with the bookies, the reality was they faced a daunting task tonight against a side with only two home losses in the league over the season.
The fact Royals had emerged from Craven Cottage – a ground where many critics feared they would struggle – with a 1-1 draw had given Stam’s men a real fighting chance of going through.
And although they relied on goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi to bail them out with a string of top-quality saves, few could deny Royals a memorable trip to Wembley.
Reading Chronicle: A suited Jaap Stam barks orders from the touchline.
Stam made two enforced changes from the side that drew 1-1 at Craven Cottage in the first leg on Saturday.
With Paul McShane serving the first of a three match ban for his red card, it meant only a third league start for club-record January signing Tiago Ilori in defence.
Jordan Obita also damaged his ankle at Fulham and left the ground on crutches, so fit-again Joey van den Berg was given the nod, while Liam Kelly recovered from a bout of sickness to start on the bench.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic made just the one change as Neeskens Kebano replaced Chris Martin, while ex-Royals loanee Lucas Piazon was named among their subs.
The Cottagers may have boasted plenty of pace in their side, but it was Reading who started on the front foot and piled the pressure on the visitors from the very first whistle.
And after surviving a couple of Fulham corners, they began to create some openings.
With 12 minutes gone Kermorgant took a searching ball from Van den Berg on his chest, turned on the edge of the box then brought the best out of Marcus Bettinelli with a low drive destined for the bottom corner.
And a minute later Kermorgant dragged a volley wide, though he was pulled up for a foul on Tim Ream in the process.
Reading Chronicle: Reading fans cheers their team on to Wembley.
But Fulham went close themselves in the 18th minute when pacey right-back Ryan Fredericks bombed forward and hit a powerful shot that Al-Habsi pushed onto his near post before safely collecting at the second attempt.
Then Scott Malone’s angled drive was comfortably held by Al-Habsi during a decent spell for Jokanovic’s side.
Suddenly, the momentum appeared to have shifted as Reading’s goal began to lead a charmed life.
And it needed a brilliant double save from Al-Habsi in the 28th minute to stop Fulham going in front.
The Oman international flung himself full-stretch to his left to keep out Tom Cairney’s sizzling free-kick, before springing back to his feet to block Sone Aluko’s follow-up with his body.
Royals hit back five minutes later when Blackett picked out Grabban, but the loan striker’s tame effort lacked the power to beat Bettinelli.
And soon after that a slick counter involving John Swift and Danny Williams ended with Grabban missing his kick from 15 yards when put under pressure by Ream.
Yet Reading went into the interval knowing they would have to improve to stem the flow of Fulham attacks.
And whatever Stam said appeared to work as Royals broke the deadlock four minutes after the restart through Kermorgant’s spot kick.
The hosts had already threatened moments earlier when Grabban’s header was saved by Bettinelli from Kermorgant’s right-wing cross.
But soon after that Kalas handled the ball in the box when under pressure from Kermorgant and referee Martin Atkinson awarded a penalty which the Frenchman dispatched into the corner without too much fuss.
One almost became two in the 56th minute when Chris Gunter raced forward and drilled over a cross, but Swift couldn’t adjust his feet in time and the ball hit his body before bouncing kindly for Bettinelli.
With Fulham’s dreams slipping away, Jokanovic made a double change on the hour by sending on Ryan Sessegnon and Piazon.
Reading Chronicle: Reading fans pour onto the Madejski Stadium pitch at the final whistle.
And Piazon almost levelled within minutes of coming on when his first-time effort from a Stefan Johansen cross deflected off Ilori and flew a foot wide of the post.
Then Sessegnon tried his luck from the corner of the box, but his shot lacked the power to trouble Al-Habsi.
Back came Royals as Williams saw an effort blocked before Kermorgant blazed the rebound over with Fulham’s defence all at sea.
Then Fulham went down the other end only for Aluko to sky one into the stands from a promising attack.
Jokanovic went for broke by throwing on another striker in the shape of Martin with 17 minutes to go.
And the visitors thought they had levelled four minutes later when McDonald’s first-time effort from Aluko’s cross looked certain to ripple the back of the net until Al-Habsi somehow touched it over with his fingertips.
It was backs-to-the-wall stuff in the closing moments as Fulham desperately searched for an equaliser and sent up Bettinelli to compete for a corner in five minutes of time added on.
But when Martin sent a header narrowly wide of the far post with moments to go, Royals had done enough to seal their place at Wembley.