Match ends, Derby County 2, Reading 1.
Derby County kept up their momentum in the hunt for a Championship play-off place, beating Reading to register a fourth successive league win.
A fine strike from Tom Lawrence put the hosts ahead just before the break, and Wayne Rooney made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time after Martyn Waghorn went down in the box.
The Royals were given a lifeline when Andy Rinomhota headed in just after the hour following a poor punch by keeper Ben Hamer.
Hamer then had to be alert to push away a header from Ovie Ejaria which was heading for the bottom corner, and the Rams hung on to remain three points off the top six after the lunchtime kick-offs.
Lawrence and Reading centre-back Matt Miazga were both sent off by referee Scott Duncan immediately after full-time following a clash just after the final whistle.
An empty Pride Park was playing host to its first game since the resumption of the 2019-20 campaign following the coronavirus outbreak, and both sides took a knee before kick-off in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Royals could have taken the lead in the first half, but George Puscas blazed an effort over the bar following a counter-attack and Ejaria hit the post from a narrow angle before seeing his follow-up effort blocked by Hamer.
Louie Sibley, last week's hat-trick hero in the 3-2 victory at Millwall, set up the opener for Lawrence, laying the ball back to the Wales international, who curled an effort across goal and into the side-netting from the edge of the box.
The Rams were then denied a penalty when Sibley went down under a strong challenge from centre-back Liam Moore, but referee Duncan pointed to the spot moments later after the Reading skipper felled Waghorn.
Rooney, England's record goalscorer, made no mistake, sending Rafael Cabral the wrong way to notch his fifth goal since making his debut for the Rams in January.
Rams hitting form at right time
Mid-table Reading were more purposeful after the break and came back into the game when Hamer elected to punch clear following a corner despite being under little pressure.
Midfielder Rinomhota was the man to benefit, finding the net from 16 yards despite a valiant effort from Lawrence to stop the ball on the line.
Derby have now won four league games in a row for the first time since December 2017, and Phillip Cocu's side are finding form at a good time of the season as they bid to secure a play-off place for the third successive campaign.
But Derby are likely to travel to fellow play-off challengers Preston on Wednesday without Lawrence and, with games against five of the current top six to come before the end of the campaign, know they will have to be at their best if they are to end their 12-year absence from the Premier League.
Derby manager Phillip Cocu: "We are in a position to fight for a play-off spot and that is something we worked hard for together. It is something that has always been in the back of our minds, but we didn't want to talk too much about it.
"A big part of the season we were not good enough but we knew we would improve. Everything is tight in this league and it is still possible. You can only start taking about it when you are a few points off sixth place."
On Lawrence's red card: "I am really disappointed and upset because after a win and the great goal he scored, this cannot happen. He let the team down and gets a ban for a few games.
"He is an important player and you have to keep control of your emotions, especially when you win the game."
Reading manager Mark Bowen:"We conceded too much space in the first half. We had three or four chances to score and then we gave ourselves a mountain to climb. I am not going to beat the team up as we were the better team for large parts.
"I'm frustrated as in my opinion we have been the best team in both games [since the restart] and have only come away with one point. It is fine details and we are getting punished harshly for it."
On the red cards for Lawrence and Miazga: "From what I know about it, Matt has reacted. I've been told he was headbutted and he swung an arm and caught the fella.
"You can't argue with it and it is two red cards. When someone puts a head into you, you shouldn't do it. I won't forgive him as he has cost his team-mates as he won't be available [for games coming up]."
- 32RooneySubstituted forDaviesat 80'minutes
- 9WaghornSubstituted forHolmesat 69'minutesBooked at 90mins
- 40SibleySubstituted forShinnieat 69'minutesBooked at 74mins
- 10LawrenceBooked at 90mins
- 19MartinSubstituted forKnightat 79'minutes
- 33Cabral Barbosa
- 5MiazgaBooked at 90mins
- 27RichardsSubstituted forObitaat 82'minutes
- 21OliseSubstituted forMcClearyat 76'minutes
- 14EjariaSubstituted forMasikaat 82'minutes
- 47PuscasSubstituted forBaldockat 61'minutes
- 29Tuncará Gomes
- Scott Duncan
- Shots on Target
Tom Lawrence (Derby County) is shown the red card for violent conduct.
Matt Miazga (Reading) is shown the red card for violent conduct.
Second Half ends, Derby County 2, Reading 1.
Foul by Tom Lawrence (Derby County).
Matt Miazga (Reading) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Duane Holmes (Derby County) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Duane Holmes (Derby County).
Ayub Timbe Masika (Reading) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Tom Lawrence (Derby County) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Ayub Timbe Masika (Reading).
Attempt missed. Graeme Shinnie (Derby County) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Duane Holmes.
Attempt saved. Yakou Meite (Reading) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Corner, Reading. Conceded by Andre Wisdom.
Jason Knight (Derby County) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Garath McCleary (Reading).
Foul by Tom Lawrence (Derby County).
Matt Miazga (Reading) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Reading. Jordan Obita replaces Omar Richards.
Substitution, Reading. Ayub Timbe Masika replaces Ovie Ejaria.