MO Barrow came off the bench to rescue a point for Reading FC with an injury-time leveller against Stoke City.

Royals were moments away from a second successive Championship defeat as Benik Afobe and Tom Ince gave Stoke a second-half lead after Marc McNulty had put the hosts ahead with his first goal for the club shortly before the break.

But there was one final twist to a grandstand finish at Madejski Stadium as substitute Barrow’s cool, side-footed finish into the corner from a Yakou Meite assist salvaged the draw.

The result saw Reading drop one place in the table to 21st with only goal difference keeping them out of the relegation zone, with the Potters still 12th as they extended their unbeaten run to seven matches.

Yet Stoke are unlikely to get a better chance to secure a league win at Reading having now failed to do so in 14 attempts stretching back to December 1992.

Royals, meanwhile, have won just once in the last seven Championship fixtures and only four of their 20 games this season to remain deep in a relegation battle.

Performances have picked up in recent weeks, but an alarming lack of consistency means they cannot pull away from the danger zone.

By the time Christmas comes their league position could be even worse as two of their next three fixtures are against promotion-chasing Sheffield United and Middlesbrough, albeit both are at home.

Clement made three changes to his starting line-up, with McNulty returning despite his penalty miss at Leeds United on Tuesday.

Tyler Blackett came into defence for injured skipper Liam Moore, while Garath McCleary returned on the wing.

There was also a first senior call-up for 19-year-old Tom McIntyre who started on the bench alongside fit-again Sam Baldock and Mo Barrow.

Former Reading promotion-winning keeper Adam Federici was among the substitutes for Stoke City.

Clement’s men started on the front foot and saw John Swift fire over from distance following a corner in the second minute.

But Stoke should have scored just two minutes later only for Afobe to miss the target with a free-header from six yards from Joe Allen’s cross.

They botched an even better chance on 10 minutes when Cuco Martina sped down the right and crossed to Afobe who looked certain to score.

But Jaakkola managed to block the striker’s shot from point-blank range before Sam Clucas sliced the loose ball miles over the bar when he should have at least it the target.

They were major let-offs for the Royals who, despite the scares, were playing some decent stuff themselves.

The visitors threatened again on 17 minutes, but Ince’s shot lacked the power to beat Jaakkola after a one-two with Clucas.

Swift went close with another long-ranger soon after that had Jack Butland beaten but went narrowly over the bar.

Then Loader crafted a decent chance by collecting Leandro Bacuna’s inch-perfect pass, driving forward only to miss the target with a left-footed drive from 15 yards.

Both sides struggled to find their rhythm for a period, and Reading’s ball retention also dipped.

Some sloppy play allowed James McClean to get free down the left before dragging an effort wide via a slight deflection off Andy Yiadom.

The same Stoke player was denied again by Jaakkola moment after Reading’s defence had switched off.

But Royals regrouped and took the lead three minutes before the break.

A steady build-up from Clement’s men saw Andy Rinomhota ghost past two defenders before his deflected cross reached McNulty at the back post where the Scotsman made no mistake by heading home.

Sadly, Reading’s lead was wiped out two minutes after restart.

A through-ball from Clucas split the defence wide open allowing Afobe to race clear and slide the ball under Jaakkola for the equaliser.

Suddenly, Royals lost their heads and continued to give cheap ball away.

Swift handed possession to the visitors on 54 minutes allowing Joe Allen to curl a shot inches wide of the far post.

Then moment later Blackett’s last-ditch block deflected Afobe’s effort over the bar after another careless mistake from the hosts.

Royals, though, failed to learn their lesson and fell behind in the 69th minute to a stunning strike from Ince.

Yet again, Reading’s defending left a lot to be desired as Stoke worked their way to the bye-line before McClean dinked over a cross to the unmarked in Ince.

The Stoke midfielder still had plenty to do, but his technique was perfect and he smacked a thunderous left-footed volley on the angle into the net via the underside of the crossbar.

Clement, who had made a change shortly before the goal, threw on his last two subs in a desperate bid to find a way back with Meite and Sam Baldock replacing McNulty and Loader.

But Stoke continued to create opportunities and saw Allen denied by a full-stretch save from Jaakkola on 77 minutes.

However, Barrow lifted Reading’s performance when he came on, pulling a shot wide before Meite drilled the ball across the Stoke six-yard box where Baldock failed to get the final touch.

Royals pushed for an equaliser and saw Tiago Ilori power a header wide from McCleary’s free-kick with three minutes to go.

Then with the clock approaching the 90, Rinomhota set up Meite, only for Butland to react sharply and parry his shot away.

Royals refused to give up and grabbed the equaliser three minutes into time added on.

They threw bodies forward and Meite’s pass found Barrow who took aim before passing the ball into the far corner with the inside of his boot for his first goal of the season.

It was a stylish finish from the winger and a point was arguably what Reading deserved on the day.

But Clement knows his side must start to pick up wins if they to avoid another fight again relegation for the second season running.

Reading host Sheffield United next Saturday (5.30pm ko).

Reading FC: Jaakkola, Gunter, Blackett, Ilori, Yiadom, Swift (Barrow 65), Rinomhota, Bacuna (c), McCleary, McNulty (Meite 72), Loader (Baldock 72). Subs not used: Mannone, Meyler, Sims, McIntyre. Booked: Bacuna 35.

Stoke City: Butland, Pieters (Edwards 66), Allen, Ince, Afobe, McClean (Fletcher 82), Indi, Shawcross ©, Clucas (Williams 89), Martina, Woods. Subs not used: Federici, Diouf, Berahino, Crouch. Booked: McClean 60.

Referee: David Coote.

Attendance: 14,414 (Stoke 1,706).