Rafa Benitez and Newcastle United can breathe a little easier without even kicking a ball on Thursday night.

Instead of only a three point lead to the challengers, the Reading 0 QPR 1 scoreline means that Newcastle go into their game at Brentford with a six point minimum lead over the teams below them – plus a goal difference that is effectively worth an extra point.

Reading dominated possession but struggled to create clear chances (where have we heard that one before?!!), despite 72% of the ball for the home side, it was QPR (according to BBC Sport) who had more shots (16 v 9), more efforts on target (4 v 1) and more corners (8 v 4).

Jamie Mackie scored the first half winner against his old club, whilst Kermorgant went closest for Reading when hitting the bar.

The top of the table now looks like this, with all having played 25 games apart from Brighton with a game in hand:

54 Brighton (GD +25)

52 Newcastle (+28)

46 Reading (+3)

46 Huddersfield (+2)

45 Leeds (+10)

42 Sheff Wed (+4)

40 Derby County (+6)

The crazy up and down nature of the Championship for many teams is summed up by QPR.

When Ian Holloway arrived in November they instantly beat Norwich in his first game, then went on a six game run where they lost every game, now they have made it three league wins in a row tonight.

This weekend’s fixtures are all tricky for those in the top seven and a win for Newcastle could be soul destroying for anybody still harbouring hopes of breaking  into the top two:

Leeds v Derby (Friday night)

Brentford v Newcastle

Preston v Brighton

Sheff Wed v Huddersfield

Whilst the size of your crowds isn’t everything, obviously…You do have to wonder whether Jaap Stam is wasting his time, creating minor miracles this season on next to no resources, the Manager and his team could have closed to within three points of Newcastle tonight.

Having won nine of their last 11 Championship matches, the response from Reading fans tonight was a crowd of 12,655 AND that included the sparse QPR following as well.