An own goal from Eunan O’Kane denied Leeds United a much-needed win as Reading fought back in a tense 2-2 draw at the Madejski Stadium.
O’Kane turned the ball into United’s net just two minutes after a quality finish from Pablo Hernandez gave Leeds a 2-1 advantage early in the second half.
United had themselves been forced to respond to a 16th-minute opener from Jon Dadi Bodvarsson but edged in front through Pontus Jansson’s strike late in the first half and Hernandez’s finish on 56 minutes.
O’Kane’s concession, though, continued United’s frustrating run of form, leaving the club with one victory in 14 matches.
Gjanni Alioski came close to snatching victory towards the end but was denied by a diving save from Anssi Jaakkola, and Jaakkola was fortunate to escape with a bad error late on as his clearance rebounded off substitute Pierre-Michel Lasogga and struck a post.
United’s season has been petering out for some time but Reading are engaged in a relegation fight and were as anxious for points at a ground where they last won in November. The crowd at the Madejski Stadium had not seen a victory on a Saturday afternoon since April, a shocking run which explained the demise of last season’s play-off finalists.
Heckingbottom made no fewer than six changes to his team, a big shift brought on by Wednesday’s lame defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, and his players sought to catch Reading on the counter-attack as Jaap Stam’s side pushed players forward.
Gjanni Alioski, one of the six players promoted to the starting side by Heckingbottom, pulled an early shot wide at the end of a quick break into Reading’s box and he went closer again on eight minutes, denied by a near-post save from Anssi Jaakkola after Laurens De Bock crossed from the left.
Reading took time to test Bailey Peacock-Farrell - retained in goal after his impressive midweek display against Wolves - and a penalty shout from Bodvarsson was ignored by referee Scott Duncan following a challenge by De Bock on the forward on 13 minutes.
But Bodvarsson found Leeds’ defence wanting three minutes later, bursting through and shooting under Peacock-Farrell after Liam Kelly won a challenge with Caleb Ekuban and gave Aluko the chance to thread a simple ball in behind Leeds’ defence.
Reading were inches away from doubling their lead in the 24th minute when Bodvarsson’s close range effort from a Barrow cross was bundled off the goalline by Peacock-Farrell and Pennington, who then blocked George Evans’ strike on the rebound. Mo Barrow, though, should have made it 2-0 on 32 minutes when he stole possession from De Bock and broke away, only to be denied by an excellent diving block from Peacock-Farrell.
The keeper excelled himself again shortly before half-time by reacting to George Evans’ 20-yard shot by glancing it over the crossbar with his fingertips and Leeds took advantage when Adam Forshaw’s cut-back found Jansson waiting to strike.
In the dying seconds of the half, Alioski clipped the outside of a post before Pelle Clement shot just wide at the other end.
Leeds’ confidence improved visibly at the start of the second half and Hernandez fired Heckingbottom’s side in front on 56 minutes, finding the far corner with a deft finish as Leeds waded forward, but Reading were level within two minutes when O’Kane slid a low hit from Leandro Bacuna into his own net.
United attempted to force a winner but Alioski was thwarted on 80 minutes by Jaakkola’s full-length parry before Reading’s keeper survived by centimetres in the 87th minute when Lasogga charged down his attempted clearance and knocked the ball against the inside of a post.
Reading: Jaakkola, Gunter, Moore, Ilori, Bacuna, Clement (Swift 63), Evans (Edwards 63), Kelly, Aluko, Barrow, Bodvarsson. Subs (not used): Mannone, Blackett, Smith, Loader, Holmes.
Leeds United: Peacock-Farrell, Berardi, Pennington, Jansson, De Bock, O'Kane, Forshaw, Alioski, Hernandez (Dallas 85), Saiz, Ekuban (Lasogga 77). Subs (not used): Wiedwald, Anita, Pearce, Phillips, Vieira.
Referee: Scott Duncan (Northumberland)