Graham Alexander sent Turf Moor wild with a 84th-minute winner from the penalty spot to give his side a precious 1-0 lead in the first leg of their Coca-Cola Championship play-off semi-final against Reading.
The veteran Scot, 37, has proved a key figure for the Clarets during their marathon campaign and registered his 11th goal of the season after Andre Bikey had pulled back substitute Steve Thompson.
Bikey was booked for his indiscretion but was shown a straight red card in the closing stages after kicking out at Robbie Blake and throwing his shirt to the ground in disgust as he walked off the field.
Owen Coyle's men have enjoyed a thrilling campaign which has seen them dump Fulham, Chelsea and Arsenal out of the Carling Cup and come close to overcoming Tottenham in an epic semi-final encounter.
Yet they struggled to make any impression on Steve Coppell's side for the majority of this game until Alexander's late intervention, and Tuesday's decisive second leg at the Madejski Stadium remains finely poised.
Reading should have forced home their first-half dominance as Clarets goalkeeper Brian Jensen denied Jay Tabb, Marek Matejovsky and Bikey while Martin Paterson hacked Kevin Doyle's header off the line.
Burnley midfielder Joey Gudjonsson and Reading forward Doyle were both substituted in the first half after succumbing to injury and must now be rated as doubtful for Tuesday's clash.
The pendulum swing in Burnley's favour with six minutes remaining when Bikey pulled back Thompson inside the penalty box and Alexander rifled home emphatically from 12 yards.
Bikey was booked for the foul and then given his marching orders for his dreadful challenge on Blake in the closing minutes and his reaction to his dismissal could land him in further trouble.
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