Sheffield United moved back into the Championship play-off places with a comfortable win at lowly Reading.
On an icy surface that made for a poor spectacle, United led 2-0 at the break after goals from Billy Sharp and Mark Duffy.
Reading cut the deficit early in the second half through Omar Richards and could have levelled in the 62nd minute.
But United’s replacement goalkeeper Simon Moore saved Leandro Bacuna’s penalty and Sharp added his second goal almost immediately.
United led the table in mid-November, but a poor run of only four wins in 16 matches had seen them slip to eighth place. Reading, the beaten play-off finalists last season, went into the match just four points clear of the relegation zone. United began quickly in the sub-zero temperature, with the pitch covered in a thin layer of snow.
They missed two gilt-edged chances in the opening minutes as Reading’s defence failed to cope with slippery conditions.
Leon Clarke should have done better when seizing on Liam Moore’s error, but drove wide with only home goalkeeper Vito Mannone to beat. He soon had a chance to atone but, after a mistake by Tiago Ilori, saw his effort blocked.
Reading were not helped by the loss of winger Garath McCleary after only six minutes to injury and, five minutes later, United deservedly went ahead.
Clarke crossed low from the left and former Reading loanee Sharp saw his first close-range effort saved by Mannone but followed up to score his 12th goal of the season.
Reading tried to respond, but offered little going forward apart from a tame effort from Pelle Clement that Jamal Blackman saved easily.
United maintained control approaching the interval, with Lee Evans driving over from 20 yards. However, in the 34th minute, they lost both Blackman and Clarke, who were injured in separate incidents and were replaced by Moore and Clayton Donaldson respectively.
One minute before half-time, Duffy brilliantly extended United’s lead when he unleashed a fierce 25-yard drive.
Having created little in the first half, Reading unexpectedly reduced the gap on 51 minutes.
Bacuna’s powerful free-kick was well saved by Moore, but substitute Richards followed up.
They could have drawn level in the 62nd minute when Richard Stearman fouled Liam Kelly in the area, but Moore pushed away Bacuna’s spot-kick.
A minute later United effectively sealed victory when the unmarked Sharp coolly slotted past Mannone via a post.
Reading: Mannone, Tiago Ilori (Smith 74),M oore, van den Berg, Gunter, Bacuna (Evans 69), Clement, McCleary (Richards 6), Kelly, Martin, Bodvarsson. Unused substitutes: Edwards, Barrow, Blackett, Jaakkola.
Sheffield United: Blackman (Moore 34), Basham, Stearman, O’Connell, Baldock, Lee Evans, Duffy (Leonard 82), Fleck, Stevens, Clarke (Donaldson 34), Sharp. Unused substitutes: Lafferty, Holmes, Ched Evans, Lundstram.
Referee: Andy Davies (Hampshire).