Denver Hume stepped up his recovery from a long-term knee injury as Sunderland Under-23s beat Reading Under-23s 1-0 at the Stadium of Light.
Hume, 20, hasn’t played since September, following Sunderland's 1-1 draw at Coventry, but captained the young Black Cats to just their second victory of the season in Premier League 2, Division 2.
Jack Diamond scored the only goal of the game midway through the second half, as Elliott Dickman’s side held on thanks to some late saves from goalkeeper Max Stryjek.
Dickman named a strong side to face the Royals, who are third in the table, with Bali Mumba and Benji Kimpioka also starting for the hosts.
Yet it was Reading who dominated possession in the early exchanges, with Sunderland happy to sit back and soak up pressure in a compact 4-4-1-1 formation.
For the most part, the young Black Cats kept their opponents at arm’s length, despite some neat passing from the visitors.
Reading’s intentions were clear from the off, with their full-backs taking up advanced positions to pin Sunderland back and stay on the front foot.
Yet, apart from a Josh Barrett free-kick which hit the wall and a Cameron Green cross which was punched away by Stryjek, Sunderland looked comfortable.
The hosts grew in confidence as the half wore on, but struggled to get support to Kimpioka up top, with Mumba and Daniel Neil taking it in turns to push forward.
But when you give him a sniff, Kimpioka can be a real handful, and the Swedish striker’s attacking instincts earned his side a corner five minutes before the interval.
It was a sign of things to come as Diamond went close on the stroke of half-time, flashing a low shot just wide from the left of the penalty area.
But after finishing the first half in the ascendancy, Sunderland were fortunate to stay on level terms two minutes after the restart, when Reading striker Adam Liddle dinked the ball over Stryjek and saw his effort rebound off the post.
Liddle went close again minutes later but fired his shot straight at Stryjek from a Reading corner, and the visitors were made to pay in the 62nd minute.
Sunderland took the lead when Diamond cut in from the right and struck a low effort straight at the goalkeeper Liam Driscoll, who was slow to get down and allowed the ball to go straight through him.
Reading went close again midway through the second half when full-back Teddy Howe beat Hume and his cross was palmed away by Stryjek. The ball dropped to Barrett inside the area, who drilled a shot onto the outside of the post.
At the other end Hume forced a decent save from Driscoll, when the Reading keeper sprang to his left to palm away a powerful effort across goal.
But it was Stryjek who was the busier of the two keepers, first keeping out a long-range effort before denying Green in stoppage time.
Sunderland U23s: Stryjek, Hunter, Taylor, Young, Hume (C), Connolly (Evans, 90), Diamond, Mumba, Connelly, Neil, Kimpioka.
Subs not used: Johnstone, Storey, Bale, Leonard.
Reading U23s: Driscoll, Howe, Green, East (C), Mayo, Holmes, Rollinson, Pendlebury, Liddle, Lawless (Olise, 65), Barrett.
Subs not used: Burley, Andresson, Balogun, Nolan.
Goals: Diamond 62
Bookings: Neil 51, Diamond 60, Connelly 67
Referee: Mr Simeon Lucas.