Nick Powell pounced two minutes into stoppage time as relegation-threatened Stoke salvaged a 1-1 draw at Reading on their return to Sky Bet Championship action.
After a poor opening, Stoke went behind in the seventh minute when Reading striker Lucas Joao guided home smoothly from 10 yards.
Tom Ince wasted Stoke’s best chance of a first-half equaliser and Reading almost increased their lead when John Swift struck the crossbar early in the second period.
Tyrese Campbell nearly levelled for the visitors with 20 minutes left but his deflected effort glanced off a post.
However, Powell struck in the second minute of stoppage time to give Stoke a point.
Stoke manager Michael O’Neill tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month but spent a period in self-isolation and he returned to training on Friday and was present in the dugout at Madejski Stadium.
Before the lockdown, Stoke were on an unbeaten run of four matches, including a 5-1 home victory over Hull last time out but they were still hovering just three points above the relegation zone.
Before kick off, a minute’s applause was held in tribute to the NHS frontline workers.
Also, players and staff from both clubs and the match officials “took a knee” in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
At a near-empty Madejski, as per the virus protocols, O’Neill’s side made a sluggish start.
Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland comfortably saved a clever flick from Joao, from an Omar Richards cross, but was beaten soon after.
Yakou Meite drove in from the right and his low centre was turned in by Joao with a precise first-time finish.
It was his first appearance since New Year’s Day – after recovering from a long-term hamstring problem – and his sixth strike for Reading this season.
The Portuguese striker also scored a goal for Sheffield Wednesday – against Reading – back in August before moving to the Berkshire club.
Stoke struggled to make headway, despite enjoying much of the possession, but could have equalised in the 16th minute.
Winger Ince found space at the far post only to direct a weak effort into the arms of home keeper Rafael.
Reading responded through impressive midfielder Michael Olise, who forced Butland into a fine save from his powerful 20-yard drive.
Joao went off injured before half time, during which O’Neill decided to bring on substitutes James McClean and Danny Batth.
McClean immediately had an impact, seeing a firm attempt blocked by home skipper Liam Moore.
Stoke almost went further behind when Swift’s sweetly struck free-kick from just outside the area thumped against Butland’s bar.
Reading also experienced a fortunate escape after Campbell’s deflected shot evaded Rafael and brushed off an upright.
However, Stoke did get their reward when Powell headed home from close range from James Chester’s nod-down.
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.