The home side started brightly, with some neat link up play in the midfield allowing Aaron Tshibola to go close, with his effort skimming the frame of the Walsall goal before heading over. However the young midfielder, who was making his first start in three months, saw his afternoon come to a premature end soon after, as he took a heavy knock and needed Michael Hector to replace him after 10 minutes.
It was a disjointed first half effort for the Royals, who struggled to make their higher standing in the football pyramid show against their lower ranked opponents. Walsall had the best of the possession for the majority of the first forty-five minutes, as the home side struggled to string together any sort of fluent passing game. So it was very much against the run of play when Hal Robson Kanu found the net for the Royals on 37 minutes, as he reacted instinctively to a quick throw-in to drive a powerful effort high into the roof of the Walsall net.
The high-flying Saddlers had barely had time to compose themselves after Robson Kanu's sucker punch when Matej Vydra doubled the Royals lead just two minutes later. After some slick interplay between Danny Williams and Stephen Quinn, the Irish international drilled a low cross into the box from the left hand side of the area which Vydra coolly dispatched into the Walsall net for his fifth FA Cup goal of the season. The Czech international could have made it three before the break, as a deft flick-on from Robson Kanu set him through on goal, but he was unable to keep his effort on target.
The Royals began to show more of their quality as the second half progressed, but were still given a few scares by their lower league opponents. Saddlers' marksman Romaine Sawyers' had probably the visitor's best chance as his 56th minute effort clattered against Ali Al Habsi's crossbar. Oliver Norwood himself then struck the woodwork at the other end, as he was unable to extend the Royals' lead from long range.
As both teams entered the final quarter of the game, further changes were afoot in the Reading backline, as the returning Paul McShane came on for Anton Ferdinand with little under twenty minutes remaining. The Royals continued to press, with Danny Williams forcing a save from Neil Etheridge on 71 minutes, as the home side looked to try and kill off the tie.
Just moments later, they were able to deal this final blow, as Vydra and Williams took advantage of confusion in the Walsall defence to lead a swift breakaway attack that saw Williams slot the ball calmly under Etheridge, who was unfortunately injured in the process. As he left the pitch on a stretcher, Stephen Quinn also made way after another industrious display, with Ola John taking to the field for the final ten minutes.
Despite their three goal advantage, the Royals' did not relent in their attacking efforts during the final stages of the game. They had the ball in the back of the Walsall net again on 87 minutes, but Matej Vydra's effort was correctly chalked off. However, Vydra was able to double his tally for the day in the final minute of normal time, as he rose to meet Chris Gunter's cross and powerfully head the ball home and confirm Reading's place in the FA Cup Fifth Round for the fifth time in the last seven seasons.