Two goals in as many minutes from Ryan Bennett and Elliott Bennett fired Norwich seven points clear of the drop zone with a 2-1 win over Reading, who sunk even deeper into the relegation mire after a toothless and chastening performance.
The visitors were handed a lifeline in the 71st minute after Garath McCleary’s superb 25-yard swerving drive found its way past the flailing Mark Bunn to send the visiting contingent into raptures.
But it proved to be a false dawn for Nigel Adkins as his team were unable to seize the advantage.
The Canaries faithful were forced to endure a nervous finish, with Reading searching desperately for an equaliser.
The result leaves Reading marooned at the foot of the table, ten points clear of safety, and all but condemns the visitors to a place in the Championship next season.
Reading arrived at Carrow Road in desperate need of all three points to keep their bid for survival afloat, whilst the hosts were presented with a clutch opportunity to quash their own relegation fears.
With a fresh tactical lineup, Norwich came charging out of the blocks in the opening stages, with two long-range efforts from Elliott Bennett coming inches away from forcing the breakthrough early on.
But for all their dominance in the first 20 minutes, the perennial lack of final third incisiveness that has blighted the Canaries’ season saw them fail to make the most of their early momentum.
After weathering the opening Norwich salvos, Reading replaced their loose possession and impotent forays forward with a more renewed impetus. McCleary provided a constant threat down the left flank, as did the bustling Pavel Pogrebnyak at the point of the attack.
His chance came towards the end of the second half, but the striker managed to skew his effort well over the bar from inside the six-yard box.
Kei Kamara came close to putting the visitors ahead minutes before the interval, but the accomplished goaltending of Alex McCarthy kept the score level in the dying stages of the half.
The fans had barely taken to their seats after the half-time break before two quick-fire goals from Ryan Bennett and his namesake, Elliott, fired Norwich to a healthy two goal lead.
But McCleary’s barnstorming long-range effort against the run of play endowed the visitors with a renewed sense of urgency as they capitalised on the momentum to put Norwich on the backfoot.
Pogrebnyak continued to trouble, as did the link-up play of McCleary and Chris Gunter down the right flank, but Reading were unable to force the breakthrough in face of some determined defending from the hosts.
The victory marks Norwich's second win in 17 games, whilst the result extends Reading’s nine-game winless streak to ten as they stare down the barrel of almost certain relegation.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Elliott Bennett - After a relatively disappointing season thus far, the winger was a constant source of creativity for the hosts. His early attempts threatened to open the scoring, and his goal could well be Norwich's watershed moment in their quest for survival.
NORWICH: Bunn 6, Martin 6, Turner 6, Bassong 7, Garrido 6, Johnson 6, Howson 6, E Bennett 8, Snodgrass 7, Kamara 7, Holt 7. Subs: Ryan Bennett 8, Alex Tettey 6, Pikington 6.
READING: McCarthy 8, Gunter 7, Mariappa 5, Morrison 6, Kelly 6, McCleary 8, Guthrie 6, Karacan 5, McAnuff 6, Blackman 5, Pogrebnyak 7.
- Sports & Recreation
- Elliott Bennett
- Ryan Bennett