Watford strengthened their bid for automatic promotion and an immediate return to the Premier League with a 2-0 win over Reading at Vicarage Road.
Xisco Munoz's Hornets started on the front foot and made the breakthrough when Ismaila Sarr chopped the ball onto his left foot and curled past goalkeeper Rafael (12), with the Senegalese doubling his tally with aplomb less than two minutes later (14).
Reading responded surprisingly well to the setback and hit the post through George Puscas, though they were guilty of spurning several chances to reduce the deficit and failed to do so in an uninspiring second half, as Watford recorded their 20th clean sheet of the season
The hosts move onto 82 points in second as a result, 12 points ahead of third-placed Brentford - who have two games in hand - while Reading stay sixth, one point ahead of Bournemouth, who also boast two games in hand.
How Watford edged closer to automatic promotion
Watford took the lead when Kiko Femenia, Nathaniel Chalobah and Sarr linked up brilliantly, with the latter cutting the ball from his right onto his left and then curling a powerful effort and, less than two minutes later, they had a second.
Lewis Gibson was caught in possession as the visitors tried to play out from the back, with Philip Zinckernagel driving on and threading the ball through to Sarr, who thumped in via the underside of the crossbar from a similar position.
Despite going two down in such a short period, Reading looked far from shell-shocked. In fact, had it not been for their sub-par finishing, they could quite easily have been level before the break, with two chances spurned by Josh Laurent before Puscas diverted Yakou Meite's cross onto the post after a magical run by Michael Olise.
With nine minutes still to play in the first half, Sarr might have had a third after a neat, first time finish following Adam Masina's cross, though the forward was denied a hat-trick by the linesman's flag.
The excitement of the first half petered out in the second, as Watford managed the game well and Reading lacked invention going forward, despite the introduction of top scorer Lucas Joao just after the hour mark.
Late on, there was a brief break in play, with Tom Holmes left clutching his head after a coming together with Joao Pedro. Replays appeared to show the Brazilian leading with his elbow, but referee James Linington failed to spot the incident and the youngster escaped without punishment.
Man of the match - Ismaila Sarr
Sky Sports' Andy Hinchcliffe:
"On a night of missed chances, he has led the way with two outstanding goals. Watford's star man is inching them ever close to a Premier League return and when you need players to step up, he has been superb."
What the managers said...
Watford's Xisco Munoz: "I think the team today played at a big level was very, very good. We have a very good team and I think I can say congratulations to the players because today was important for us, but also important to keep going with the same ambition.
"We know what our power is and we played with high intensity. I think the team today was excellent. We enjoyed 30 minutes and afterwards we started preparing for the next game."
Reading's Veljko Paunovic: "At the end of the day, when you lose a game and you don't convert your opportunities, you can't complain. Our issue was that, especially in the first half, we created very good chances and not converting them hurt us because we were waiting, playing, running and putting a lot of effort in, especially with the ball.
"I'm very proud of my team. To come here and play the way we played with the composure we had and being in charge of the game from the second goal onwards, I don't think many teams do that. We also know at this point that it was very important for us to keep our confidence high and when we look at the result, it's not good, but our football was good."
Reading are next in action at 6pm on Friday, April 16, when they host Cardiff at the Madejski Stadium - in a game live on Sky Sports Football - while Watford travel to Kenilworth Road to face Luton at 3pm the following day.