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Rafa Benitez's Newcastle on brink of promotion back to the Premier League

After Reading lost to Nottingham Forest, Newcastle will be promoted if they beat Preston North End on Monday.

Newcastle face Preston on Monday.
Newcastle face Preston on Monday.
Image: Owen Humphreys

NEWCASTLE UNITED ARE on the brink of being promoted back to the Premier League as the other high-flyers in the Championship faltered.

Third-placed Reading were beaten 3-2 as Nottingham Forest secured a huge three points in their battle against the drop, meaning the Royals are six points shy of Newcastle with two games of their season remaining.

Reading are crucially 36 worse off than Newcastle in terms of goal difference and they must now prepare for a play-off campaign – something that is almost certain to concern Huddersfield Town after their 4-1 loss at home to in-form Fulham.

The Terriers have three to play and are seven points behind Newcastle, who will confirm an instant return to the top flight if they beat Preston North End on Monday.

Huddersfield lie fifth, a place below Sheffield Wednesday after their Yorkshire counterparts beat Derby County 2-1, while Leeds United’s defeat by the same scoreline to Burton means Fulham have a three-point cushion in sixth.

At the other end of the table, Wigan Athletic drew 0-0 at home to Cardiff City and will be relegated if Birmingham City avoid defeat in Sunday’s derby at Aston Villa.

Chris Lowe gave Huddersfield an early lead from the penalty spot after being brought down by Sone Aluko, but Fulham’s Scott Malone squeezed in a shot from a tight angle in the 16th minute to restore parity.

The game’s second penalty arrived four minutes later, with Fulham’s Tom Cairney – on the back of his PFA Championship Team of the Year selection – sending Danny Ward the wrong way.

Stefan Johansen piled further misery on to the Terriers before half-time, his quick-fire brace capping a stunning 45 minutes for Slavisa Jokanovic’s men.

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Nottingham Forest v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - City Ground Reading's automatic promotion hopes were dented with defeat to Notts Forest. Source: EMPICS Sport

Elsewhere, Steven Fletcher’s fourth goal in five games pegged back Derby, who led at Hillsborough through Darren Bent before Gary Hooper netted the winner for Wednesday with just under half-an-hour remaining.

Reading’s hopes of automatic promotion took a hit as they crashed to a 3-2 defeat against relegation-battling Forest.

Britt Assombalonga’s double and an effort from Mustapha Carayol had put the hosts into a commanding lead by the 54th minute at the City Ground.

Yann Kermorgant’s brace hauled Reading back into proceedings, but despite a late glut of pressure from the visitors, Forest held firm to move three points clear of the drop zone.

After spending the vast majority of the campaign in the play-off spots, Leeds look the most likely to miss out on a place in the top six, as Burton all-but secured Championship football for next season.

In a flurry of late activity at the Pirelli Stadium, Marvin Sordell’s curling strike put the hosts ahead with just 15 minutes remaining.

Michael Kightly added a second moments later, and that effort proved decisive when Kyle Bartley bundled home in the 80th minute.

The victory moves Burton onto 51 points – six clear of the relegation zone – while Leeds are now three points adrift of inform Fulham in the final play-off berth.

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