Cardiff shrugged off the loss of captain Craig Bellamy to gain the upper hand in their npower Championship play-off semi-final with Reading after a tense goalless draw at the Madejski Stadium.
The Bluebirds will arguably be the happier of the two sides heading into next week's second leg in Wales but look set to be without Bellamy as they fight to win a place in the Barclays Premier League.
The on-loan Manchester City striker lasted just 17 minutes before going off injured but Dave Jones' side recovered to limit the Royals in a poor game.
Bellamy posed the first threat after 11 minutes, racing onto Peter Whittingham's magnificent through ball to fire in a cross-shot which Royals goalkeeper Adam Federici had to tip away for a corner.
The Australian was in action again from the following set-piece to palm away a Jay Bothroyd strike but Bellamy was soon back in the stand after appearing to clutch his hamstring when chasing down a clearance.
Reading winger Hal Robson-Kanu saw an improvised back heel deflected wide as the hosts ended the first half with a spell of pressure but Stephen Bywater remained untroubled in the Cardiff goal.
Kevin McNaughton pulled off a fine challenge to prevent Robson-Kanu from streaking clear seconds before the break as the sides went in goalless.
Matt Mills came close in the opening minutes of the second half when Shane Long headed an Ian Harte corner back across goal but the former Manchester City defender was unable to divert the ball on target.
Whittingham sent a 25-yard drive just wide of Federici's left corner despite being hampered by referee Mark Halsey as the visitors began to win control in midfield.
Federici then flapped at a deep free-kick but escaped as Jay Emmanuel-Thomas' flick-on evaded Bothroyd and neither side could fashion another opportunity as a disappointing evening came to a close.
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