Doncaster Rovers’ battle against relegation will go to next Saturday’s last match of the season - away to champions Leicester City - after a 3-1 home defeat to play-off-chasing Reading.
Rovers and Reading both needed the points for very different reasons at the Keepmoat Stadium this afternoon.
And, with the stakes so high, it resulted in a tense opening to the game.
The Rovers fans had turned out in good numbers and were also in good voice during the early exchanges, helping their side settle first, although chances were at a premium during a quiet opening quarter hour.
Doncaster were focused in their work, chasing everything down and defending calmly. McCleary, down Reading’s right, was emerging as the Royals’ main threat with the ball at his feet.
The body language of former Reading loanee Sharp, meanwhile, was worlds apart from his abject display against Derby.
He and Brown were providing energy from the front as Rovers continued to look comfortable against the Royals.
There was no lack of endeavour from either side but neither side were making any impact in the final third.
That was until the 26th minute when Sharp found space in the left channel, played it across goal and COPPINGER was there to fire home with a first-time finish.
Masked man Tamas appeared to take a knock to his face in the aftermath of the goal but the Romanian was okay to continue following some touchline treatment from Alex Dalton.
Rovers were continuing to go about the game in a very business-like fashion and they almost doubled their lead on 35 minutes when Coppinger almost returned the favour for Sharp.
The winger picked out his teammate with a lovely cross from the right but Sharp’s downward header was saved by McCarthy.
Reading enjoyed their best spell as the game hit the 40-minute mark, enjoying more prolonged spells of possession and a flurry of corners.
They won a free kick on the edge of the box but McCleary’s delivery from the right was well blocked by Sharp in the wall, although the frontman certainly felt the full force of it.
He picked himself up gingerly and Rovers safely negotiated their way to half time.
Reading were almost gifted an early chance at the start of the second half when a backtracking Tamas under-hit a routine pass but the defender was able to atone for his error and clear the danger.
Johnstone then had to be alert to claim a ball into the box as Reading started the half on the front foot.
Rovers were feeding on scraps after the restart but Coppinger almost produced a bit of magic, taking down a high looping ball in the box but it was forced out for a corner, which eventually came to nothing. Reading were showing one or two signs on the counter, widemen McCleary and McAnuff continuing to be their chief threats.
The visitors were level on 63 minutes, with their first shot on target - and it came from the penalty spot.
Quinn clipped Le Fondre in the box and Anthony Taylor had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
LE FONDRE picked himself up and fired his kick low under the body of Johnstone.
Rovers responded by bringing on Wellens for Furman.
McAnuff broke dangerously down the right and appealed for another penalty, this time under the challenge of Keegan, but Taylor this time waved play on.
Le Fondre then wasted a gilt-edged chance to put his side ahead. McCleary broke down the right and picked out the former Rotherham man, but he mis-kicked with the goal at his mercy.
Reading were now in full flow and as the game entered the final ten minutes.
Rovers were clinging on for dear life, as Leigertwood let fly from the edge of the area and his effort went narrowly over.
Robinson came on for Sharp as Dickov tried to wrestle back some impetus but seconds after the substitution, Reading were ahead. A deep cross from the right picked out POGREBNYAK at the back post and he stooped to head past Johnstone.
With Rovers committing bodies forward the Royals rubbed salt in Rovers’ wounds in stoppage time, Pearce waltzing through and POGREBNYAK slotting home - leaving Doncaster’s Championship status hanging by the thread.