Relieved Barry admits pressure to score late goal almost led City to panic stations
Match-winner Gareth Barry admitted panic had almost started to set in before his late heroics salvaged victory for Manchester City over struggling Reading.
The champions had been in danger of dropping vital points to the Premier League's bottom side before Barry headed home in injury time to snatch a 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium.
City had gone into the game trailing rivals Manchester United by six points at the top of the table and, after failing to make the most of a clear superiority, had looked like handing their neighbours another boost.
But the hosts fought to the end and, despite claims by Reading that he benefited from climbing on the back of Nicky Shorey, midfielder Barry rose to meet a David Silva cross to plant home a firm header.
Barry said: "I am relieved and delighted at the same time, to get a goal that late.
"You are starting, probably, to panic, thinking we are going to drop some big points at home again.
"It is difficult, especially when you don't get the breakthrough early.
"The longer the game goes on the more you could see the Reading players growing in confidence. They started to believe they could keep us out for the 90 minutes. Even towards the end they were believing they could maybe get the winning goal."
Royals boss Brian McDermott claimed the decision by referee Mike Dean to award the goal, as well as earlier denying his side a penalty, had ruined his Christmas.
Barry felt he had merely been playing for the ball.
He said: "At the time I felt I just got up and Nicky Shorey was just standing there. I probably went over the top of him. I'm delighted the referee hasn't seen it as a foul."
City dominated in all departments and had 17 attempts on goal to their opponents' six, although they did not regularly test goalkeeper Adam Federici.
Reading showed great defensive resolve throughout and Alex Pearce had two good headed opportunities from corners.
Jay Tabb thought he should have had a penalty after colliding with City youngster Karim Rekik during a second-half counter-attack -- when Matija Nastasic might also have escaped with a handball -- but Reading's spirited efforts were not rewarded.
City's 2012, particularly their dramatic title success, will be remembered for late goals and they ended their home programme for the year in typical fashion. Barry, 31, added: "You have got to (keep going) at this level. We scored so many late goals last season and a few this year.
"Those late goals can be so important at the end of the season and hopefully that will be another one."
With three more games to come in just over a week, Barry felt the points were vital to keep the pressure on United. He said: "It is very important. When there is a little gap it is important you don't slip away too much further. If we can keep chipping away we are going to be there at the end of the season."
A seventh successive defeat was harsh on Reading after a performance much improved from Monday's 5-2 defeat by Arsenal. Midfielder Jem Karacan, who had been making his first appearance in two months after overcoming a knee injury, said: "We're gutted, the boys are devastated. On another day, Tabby gets a penalty and we get a goal to take the lead. We just don't seem to get the decisions when we need them.
"The boys have been unbelievable, we all worked so hard.
"Yet we defend for our lives for 90 minutes and they go and get one in injury time even though everyone can see it's a blatant foul.
"People are writing us off day in, day out, no-one is giving us a chance in hell. But you can't take notice of it."