LEANDRO Bacuna scored the winner for Reading in a desperately-needed 3-2 victory against Bristol City to boost Paul Clement’s chances of keeping his job.

Royals led three times against the Robins with four goals coming in a pulsating first half.

Yakou Meite gave the hosts a seventh-minute lead with his fourth goal in four games only for Jack Hunt to level on 23 minutes.

A Liam Kelly thunderbolt in first-half injury time put Royals back in front, but Josh Brownhill equalised barely a minute later to make it 2-2 at the break.

However, Bacuna’s composed finish in the 66th minute proved the difference and gave Royals a lead they would hold on to, despite late pressure from Lee Johnson’s visitors.

The win – only Reading’s fourth in 16 league games this season – was not enough to lift them out of the bottom three.

But it will ease the pressure on under-fire Clement – for the time being at least.

Royals boss’ demanded ‘blood and sweat’ from his players and to leave nothing on the pitch.

And while this was far from a perfect performance by the hosts – that is exactly what he got.

The home side rarely looked settled in defence, with Sam Walker making one vital save late on to deny Andreas Weimann a last-gasps leveller.

But Clement’s men were lively in attack and gave the City rearguard a thorough working over.

Clement made three changes from the side that lost at Swansea City last weekend including a recall for bad-boy Mo Barrow following a breach of club discipline.

Walker replaced injured keeper Anssi Jaakkola and Andy Rinomhota came in for his first league start in midfield, with John Swift and Garath McCleary dropping to the bench.

Clement’s men were energetic from the first whistle, only for a couple of promising attacks to break down due to wrong decisions on the ball.

But they soon got the early break they so desperately wanted thanks to Meite’s opener in the seventh minute.

City could only clear Bacuna’s dangerous free-kick to Liam Kelly. The Royals midfielder returned the ball back into the area where Sam Baldock took a touch before Meite instinctively swept home with a first-time shot with his left from around 12 yards.

It was no more than Reading deserved and they looked to build on their lead with Kelly and Bacuna both firing over from distance.

The visitors had rarely ventured in the Royals half and were regularly forced back by the determined hosts.

So when the Robins levelled in the 23rd minute it was pretty much against the run of play.

Royals looked well organised in defence when Jack Hunt collected the ball on the left and ran towards goal.

The City wide-man ghosted past Kelly far too easily then slipped a well-weighted pass into the path of Pack who slotted past Walker without breaking stride.

The goal knocked Reading out of their rhythm and City were quick to take the initiative.

It required a vital save from Walker at his near post to deny Niclas Eliasson four minutes later, then Famara Diedhiou rifled one narrowly over from 20 yards out.

To add to Reading’s woes, Meite pulled up eight minutes before the break and had to go off, with McCleary sent on in his place and Baldock shifted up front.

Nevertheless, after Walker had thwarted Matty Taylor, Clement’s men regained the lead in spectacular fashion a minute into time added on.

Bacuna linked up with Tyler Blackett who laid the ball off to Kelly before the diminutive midfielder smacked a delicious effort into the top corner from 25 yards out.

It was a stunning strike from Kelly, but the hard work was quickly undone less than two minutes later as City equalised again.

Reading’s defence was pulled apart allowing Brownhill to poke home from a goalmouth scramble after good work from Taylor.

The visitors threatened a third after the restart when Tomas Kalas’ shot on the turn flew straight at Walker.

Royals then botched a two-on-one chance at the other end when Bacuna held on to for too long instead of playing in Baldock, allowing Adam Webster to cover.

Tempers threatened to boil over soon after following a bust-up between Bacuna and Liam Walsh, with both players earning a booking.

Walsh, though, went close to scoring soon after when he dragged an effort narrowly wide.

Yet Reading’s patience was rewarded when they got in front in the 66th minute for the third time in the match.

A neat build-up saw Bacuna collect a return pass from Barrow, take a touch then slot the ball past O’Leary and into the bottom corner.

But Royals were thanking their lucky stars when the visitors almost equalised again 10 minutes later.

Reading failed to deal with a deep cross and they were almost punished when Brownhill’s shot on the stretch cannoned off the far post with Walker well beaten.

And Royals’ hearts were in mouths in the 80th minute when Walker flapped at corner, but the loose ball bounced unkindly for Diedhious who couldn’t turn it home.

Walker, though, made amends with a match-winning save two minutes from time.

Weimann found space in the box before racing on to a pass and drilling a shot from 10 yards that looked certain to burst the Reading net.

But Walker made himself bit and took the shot on his chest before punching the return cross clear.

The Robins threw the kitchen sink at the hosts in the closing stages, but Diedhiou’s header lacked direction and Walsh curled a free-kick from 20 yards narrowly over the bar.

A huge sigh of relief from the home fans greeted the final whistle.

The challenge facing Clement now is to build on this victory and start climbing the table.

And they may not get a better chance with basement boys Ipswich Town the visitors next Saturday.