Sam Hutchinson celebrated his birthday but gave out the perfect present as his second half header at Reading helped Wednesday to a winning start to the new campaign.
Yakou Meite had cancelled out Kadeem Harris’ opener just three minutes earlier but Hutchinson’s response was immediate and telling.
It was little more than the Owls deserved overall as they created far more chances than the Royals, who struggled at times to cope with Wednesday’s offensive play.
And for the first time in three years, the Owls posted a maximum return on the Championship’s opening day as substitute Lucas Joao countered a late red card for Keiren Westwood with a third goal.
The Irishman saw red after tangling with Mo Barrow outside the area but Wednesday recovered from that blow with Joao’s injury time strike to seal the points.
The tone was set when Steven Fletcher warmed the hands of Joao Virginia inside two minutes and the lively Harris also called on the Reading keeper in the early throes.
As the game unfolded, possession was relatively equal before Reading had claims for a penalty waved away midway through the first half.
Andy Yiadiom did well to burst into the box on the angle and hit a fierce drive that Westwood deflected and Tom Lees cleared off the line.
The home players were in unison asking for a spot-kick but the referee indicated that Lees used his chest to divert the danger.
The Owls responded with Barry Bannan inches away having seen a gap at the far post before Harris went one better on the half-hour mark.
Palmer fed the wideman down the left flank and Harris shrugged off his marker to advance and fire beneath Virginia.
The Royals finished the opening 45 with a Josh Barrett long ranger that flew over the bar and started the second half with real purpose.
And eight minutes in they got their reward when Meite levelled after good work down the left by Barrett, whose hanging cross was converted with a looped header.
But the Owls were undaunted and after Virginia saved a vicious Fletcher drive, they promptly regained the lead on 56 minutes.
Bannan’s corner delivery was pinpoint and Hutchinson executed a thumping header into the top left of Virginia’s net.
And straight from the restart, Wednesday almost put some real daylight between themselves and the Royals.
Again Bannan was the architect but this time his diagonal feed was glanced inches wide by the onrushing Fletcher.
Liam Palmer then had a daisycutter deflected past the post as the Owls looked to make the game safe.
Charlie Adam sailed a snapshot over with the clock ticking down before there was late drama at the Madejski.
Westwood collided with Barrow just outside the penalty area and the Wednesday keeper saw a straight red card with ten minutes to go.
Cameron Dawson came on and dropped on Adam’s whistler from range and faced seven minutes of stoppage time.
But Dawson was untroubled through a nervy ending to an enthralling afternoon that ended with Joao stabbing into the far corner to ensure a first day travelling triumph.
Wednesday: Westwood (S/O 81), Odubajo, Lees, Borner, Palmer, Harris (Forestieri 77), Hutchinson, Bannan, Lee (Joao 77), Reach, Fletcher (Dawson 82)