CARDIFF City scored twice in the last eight minutes to deny Reading FC a third straight Championship victory.

Royals cruised into a 2-0 lead in the first half thanks to a 16th minute Callum Paterson own goal and a deflected Mo Barrow strike four minutes before the break.

But Neil Warnock’s Bluebirds threw the kitchen sink at the hosts in the second half, with Joe Bennett reducing the arrears in the 83rd minute.

And Cardiff completed an unlikely comeback a minute into time added on when Lee Tomlin’s volley hit the bar and bounced over the line to deny Royals all three points.

Both sides went into the clash in decent form with Royals unbeaten in four and seeking a third straight win, while Cardiff had won their previous four.

Stam selected an unchanged starting XI for the fourth match in a row, while Cardiff made two changes from the side that beat Norwich City 3-1 with former Royals target Omar Bogle and Paterson both coming in.

A cagey start ended with Cardiff creating the first real chance in the 14th minute when Vito Mannone produced a fine save to deny Nathaniel Mendez-Laing following a strong run into the area from the Bluebirds winger.

That scare woke Reading up and two minutes later they had taken the lead.

Former Royals defender Sean Morrison was inches away from diverting Chris Gunter’s left-wing cross into his own net.

But Cardiff failed to heed the warning and when Liam Kelly’s corner arrived in the six-yard box, Paterson could only flick a header at the near post into the far corner of Neil Etheridge’s net with 16 minutes gone.

Stam’s men almost doubled their lead six minutes later after catching Cardiff cold again on the most frosty of nights.

This time Sone Aluko escaped down the right and whipped over a cross which Yann Kermorgant headed narrowly wide.

Cardiff replied with Junior Hoilett heading a cross narrowly over the Reading crossbar.

But Warnock’s concerns deepened when was forced to he replace injured captain Morrison with Lee Peltier with 34 minutes to go and reverted to a flat-back four.

It was a frustrating way for Morrison’s night to end on his return to Berkshire.

Yet the Bluebirds soon had a mountain to climb after Royals doubled their lead four minutes before the break.

Again, it was Gunter’s strong run down the left that forced the visitors to concede a corner.

Kelly’s delivery was only half-cleared to Barrow whose left-footed volley from outside the box took a slight deflection off Joe Bennett as it flew though a crowded goalmouth and past the wrong-footed Etheridge.

Cardiff were being pulled all over the place and they almost conceded a third just before the interval when Barrow was denied by a last-ditch Sol Bamba challenge.

Warnock would have been seething at the interval, but his players came out firing for the second half.

They threatened less than two minutes of the restart when Joe Ralls sped on to a Mendez-Laing cutback, only for Mannone to race off his line and smother the ball at the midfielder’s feet.

But Reading remained on the front foot and less than a minute later Aluko’s fierce shot from a tight angle flew an inch over the Cardiff bar.

Kermorgant went close to adding a third after running on to a weak clearance, only for Etheridge to make a vital save.

However, Cardiff refused to lie down and went agonisingly close to pulling one back in the 55th minute when Hoilett’s downward header from Mendez-Laing’s cross bounced up and over Mannone but onto the roof of the net.

Yet they also left gaps as the back and were nearly punished on the hour when Peltier took the ball off Kermorgant’s toe as he raced onto Kelly’s low cross.

Kermorgant, though, came to Reading’s rescue midway through the second half with a crucial clearance on the line after Mannone had spilled Sol Bamba’s header when under pressure from Bogle.

Warnock’s frustrations soon boiled over the Bluebirds boss was sent to the stands 14 minutes before the end for protesting over a free-kick against Paterson.

And he had barely taken his seat before Bluebirds pulled one back in the 83rd minute.

Royals failed to deal with an attack down the left and, when Paul McShane’s tame clearance fell to Bennett, he slammed a volley past Mannone and into the far corner.

Suddenly, Reading were under the cosh as Bluebirds piled men forward and nerves began to creep in.

But they weathered that storm and hit back with two decent chances, substitute Adrian Popa’s cross-shot almost flying in but for a fingertip save from Etheridge.

Then from that corner Dave Edwards slammed a left-footed drive into the side netting with Etheridge beaten.

They proved costly misses as Cardiff equalised a minute into time added on – thanks to goalline technology.

Bamba headed a ball from the left onto the woodwork and, when it fell nicely for Tomlin, his ferocious volley smashed against the underside of the bar and bounced just over the line.

It was a bitter blow for the Royals and their disappointment intensified when McShane headed against the post from an Edwards centre from the last play of the match.

This Saturday, the Royals are in action at Ipswich.