For Everton's manager David Moyes this was a victory that delivered more than three points. It was one that hinted that an over-reliance on Marouane Fellaini for goals might just be coming to an end.
Everton should have known things would turn out tickety-boo when Fellaini scored for the 11th time in the Premier League this season – they have not lost when he has registered. Yet it was the final goal of a fine three, a composed finish from another Belgian, Kevin Mirallas, midway through the second half, that most enthused Moyes.
It was the second time inside a week that the £6m summer signing from Olympiakos had struck at Goodison Park, suggesting that he may become a more regular scoring outlet towards the fag end of the season. Steven Pienaar, who switched flanks effectively with Mirallas during the first half, also scored from distance as Everton finished with real swagger to clinch only a second league win since 2 January.
"Mirallas was a very different player to the one who'd been operating in recent weeks. What we saw was a player who looked like he could score and create goals, and he didn't look like that previously," said Moyes, who in mitigation of Mirallas believes the Belgian is only now at full capacity following three months dogged by hamstring trouble.
"That's really important for us because we've needed someone to get on the end of things. We'll need that if we are going to continue our form this season. It was the sort of form he showed early in the season when he was full of menace, and frightened teams. If he can continue that then it will give us the edge we are looking for in the run-in, and with the cup game coming up."
For the match in question, the FA Cup quarter-final against Wigan on Saturday, Everton will be without their captain, Phil Jagielka. A clumsy challenge by Reading's Adam le Fondre left a deep gash in Jagielka's ankle that required a hospital visit but should not sideline him for England's World Cup qualifiers in San Marino on 22 March and Montenegro four days later.
Moyes condemned the offending tackle but Reading also cried foul after yet another fruitless away trip. They have mustered only five points on the road, the lowest return in the top flight, and their efforts to fight back on Saturday were hampered when the referee, Anthony Taylor, failed to see the ball strike Sylvain Distin's hand in the area.
"When we played Newcastle earlier this season Demba Ba handled one blatantly into the net and it was given as a goal, so you would like to think, with 10 games to go, things might turn a little bit," said Reading's manager, Brian McDermott. "The problem is, at this level, when you go to places like Chelsea, Newcastle and Everton, the margins are very small. We need everything to be on our side, we need the ref to get those decisions right and we also need to play well. If all that happens, we've got a chance. It seems we've no problem when it comes to scoring late goals, but we just left ourselves too much to do."
Indeed, Hal Robson-Kanu's near-post header emphasised second-from-bottom Reading's fighting spirit – it was the 17th time they had scored in the final 20 minutes of a Premier League match this season, exactly half of their overall goal tally.
Man of the match Steven Pienaar (Everton)