A long night in Berkshire eventually saw Reading progress against stubborn lower league opposition. In a performance that left a lot to be desired, there were familiar deficiencies on display, but to their credit Reading again showed spirit to come from behind.
Jaap Stam elected to use his squad for the competition formerly known as the League Cup; Jordan Obita was the only player from the starting line-up against Brighton to keep his place. That meant debuts for Danzell Gravenberch, Liam Kelly and Liam Moore, with Stephen Quinn captain for the first time.
The game also saw a historic, if rather depressing for some of us, moment in the history of the Madejski Stadium, as the visitors' Oran Jackson became the first ever player to appear in a senior match at our home stadium who was born after it was opened. Feel old?
There was little of action in the opening stages of the game, though Reading did suffer a blow when Deniss Rakels had to be stretched off the pitch.
The game came to life after half an hour when a poor pass back from Jake Cooper was under hit and easily intercepted by Brandon Thomas-Asante who was brought down inside the box by Anssi Jaakkola. Luckily for Reading, Jaakkola was only shown a yellow, but Dean Bowditch was to make any relief short lived as he fired home the resulting penalty.
Poor Cooper's night didn't get much better in the second half when he collided with Kelly and the debutant became the second home player to leave the pitch on a stretcher.
Reading struggled to create any serious chances and it took their right back Tennai Watson to force Lee Nicholls to make a first meaningful save. That seemed to spark Reading into life and soon after Callum Harriott equalised through a fantastic long range shot.
The Royals went close again when Joseph Mendes had a header cleared off the line. That should have been encouragement for Reading to go get a winner, but they quickly lost any momentum they had.
As we have seen a few times this season Reading were a bit guilty of being too slow in their build up play, which made it easy for the opposition to get men behind the ball. It was ironic then that a rare long ball almost saw a home winner at the end of normal time, when Roy Beerens ran through but his shot was saved.
The Dutch winger went close again in injury time, as did George Evans, but it was Mendes who had the best chance to win the game before the game inevitably went to extra time.
The League One team started extra time the stronger team and were unlucky not to retake the lead when Ben Reeves struck the post and from the rebound Ed Upson hit the bar.
With the players tiring the game became more and more stretched. Reading were not helped when the hapless Cooper completed a miserable night by picking up an injury that left him a virtual passenger unable to help his team.
The game finally came to life in the second half of extra time when Harriott scored another good goal. Apparently Tim Dellor loudly and prematurely declared that goal was the winner. Well Tim you did it again, as somehow Reading found time to concede their customary goal from a set piece which Kabongo Tshimanga turned in. And so to penalties.
Danny Williams, Upson and George Evans all scored, before Reeves missed his second penalty in a week. Quinn then slotted home and Jaakkola saved the visitor's third penalty. That gave Harriott the chance to be the hero but he missed. George Williams then delayed Reading winning to no avail, as Jordan Obita scored the winning penalty.
Tonight was another reminder for Reading fans for how much work Jaap Stam has to do. This was a laborious performance against a lower league side's reserve team.
Stam will have a long list of concerns following this game. Once again Reading conceded from a set piece. There were some worrying individual performances. There were also potentially serious injuries to Kelly and Rakels, whilst other Reading players showed a worrying lack of fitness.
The pluses for Stam were the performances of Harriott and Jaakkola. Both impressed and showed they will be useful squad players as the season progresses.
Other players did little to suggest they offer anything that academy players couldn't. Have Fosu and Stacey really gone backwards so much that they deserve the big snub of having their squad numbers removed, let alone not to be considered for the bench tonight which meant Reading only had six subs?
On a day when Aston Villa and Newcastle United were rumoured to have bid £5 million for a right back, it is becoming clear that for the first time since Reading moved to the Madejski Stadium, and in Oran Jackson's life, Reading are real underdogs in the second tier. Fans will need to be patient like they had to be tonight.
Reading: Jaakkola; Watson, Moore, Cooper, Obita; Kelly (Evans 52); Gravenberch (Williams 75), Quinn; Harriott, Mendes, Rakels (Beerens 21)
MK Dons: Nicholls; Williams, Downing, Wotton, Tilney, Jackson (Reeves 45), Upson, Rasulo, Thomas-Asante (Williams), Tshimanga, Bowditch (Carruthers 63)
Attendance: 6,848 (361 away fans)