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This was an emphatic response to any concerns that Fulham’s flat pre-Christmas form or the spate of coronavirus pandemic postponements might ruin their promotion push. Marco Silva’s scored seven for the second time this season – romping away from a wretched Reading side and sending the beleaguered Veljko Paunovic closer to the exit door. Harry Wilson picked up where he left off at Ashton Gate, profiting from a shocking backpass to prod the Whites ahead, before winning a penalty on the stroke of half time and tapping home from close range to make sure of all three points.

But the visitors weren’t satisfied with merely wrapping up a routine win. Reading, who looked devoid of confident following their FA Cup exit at the hands of Kidderminster on Saturday, probably had an idea it wasn’t going to be their night when veteran striker Andy Carroll saw two sensational strikes disallowed for offside in the space of ninety seconds but they folded alarmingly in the second half when Paunovic eschewed any semblance of damage limitation. Some of the home marking from set plays was shambolic: they left Mitrovic entirely unmarked at a corner, allowing Kenny Tete to glance in his first Fulham goal, and Tosin Adarabioyo got in the act as well when he thumped in a downward header from another flag kick.

Between those headers came further evidence of Aleksandar Mitrovic’s evolution into a more complete striker under Silva. Having thumped home the penalty in first half stoppage time, the Serbian laid on a lovely goal for Kebano by sending Wilson scurrying clear down the right wing and Kebano was on hand to tuck home from inside the six-yard box. Mitrovic rounded off a miserable night for his compatriot Paunovic when he followed up after Luke Southwood had saved Harrison Reed’s piledriver splendidly. It was hard not to feel for the young Royals goalkeeper, outstanding at Craven Cottage in September. As staggering as it sounds, it would have been much worse without him.

Reading are well and truly ensconced in a relegation battle, which they will surely fight within Pauvonic at the helm. His plans to spring a surprise were in tatters as early as the seventh minute when Scott Dann succumbed to a hamstring strain after trying to keep up with Kebano. The introduction of Mamadi Camara meant Josh Laurent had to slot back in at centre back. Six minutes later, he played a pass across his own box with Wilson lurking and the Welshman gleefully accepted the gift.

Wilson should have made it two ten minutes later. A raking pass from Kebano saw him accelerate into the area but drag his wide of goal as Ethan Bristow gamely dived in. Fabio Carvalho then crept away from two defenders but his low cross didn’t reach an unmarked Wilson, before Reading were nearly handed a route back into the contest by some brainless defending from Antonee Robinson. The American full back fluffed a simple clearance from Junior Hoilett’s cross and Camara improvised a backheeled finish only for Marek Rodak to pull off an outstanding stop.

After Carroll, who had earlier thrown himself theatrically to ground in an attempt to win a penalty off Adarabioyo, had seen his two astonishingly finishes chalked off in the blink of an eye, Reading suffered a hammer blow in first half stoppage time. Wilson worked a one-two with Cairney and burst towards goal. Tom Holmes stretched out a panicked leg and referee Tony Harrington pointed to the stop. Mitrovic doubled Fulham’s lead to settle any nerves amongst the away contingent.

The second half began in a similar vein. Mitrovic had a shot blocked and the ball fell kindly for Wilson, but the Welshman scuffed his effort slightly into the side netting. He was celebrating on the hour, though, after finishing a flowing move that saw Robinson rampage down the left and supply the perfect pass after being found by a brilliant ball from Mitrovic. It felt like Silva’s side could score at will now, with substitute Andy Rinomhota arriving in the nick of time to deny Kebano.

The damn broke decisively in the final quarter as Tete, Kebano, Adarabioyo and Mitrovic mercilessly profiting from Reading’s painful predicament. This was the first time an English side had recorded two away wins by a seven goal margin since Liverpool in 1896. The Whites have now inflicted record home defeats on Blackburn and the unfortunate Reading in the space of three months. This demolition job lifts Silva’s side back to second in the table and sends another message to the first of the Championship – Fulham are far from finished.

READING (4-2-3-1): Southwood; Tetek (Rinomhota 52), Bristow, Holmes, Dann (Camara 7); Laurent, Drinkwater (Puscas 63); Hoilett, Dele-Bashiru, Swift; Carroll. Subs: Rafael, Stickland, Clarke.

BOOKED: Drinkwater.

FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Tete, A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Reed (Chalobah 78), Cairney; Wilson (Muniz 76), Kebano, Carvalho (Decordova-Reid 72); Mitrovic. Subs: Gazzaniga, Odoi, Hector, Francois.

GOALS: Wilson (13, 60), Mitrovic (pen 45+3, 89), Tete (68), Kebano (71), Adarabioyo (75).

REFEREE: Tony Harrington (County Durham).

ATTENDANCE: 11,472.