Two goals within the first half hour and a late Stephane Sessegnon strike denied an injury hit Royals side anything from their long trip up to the Stadium of Light on Tuesday evening.
Irish international James McClearn opened the scoring within 120 seconds, firing home through a crowd of bodies after Adam Johnson’s initial corner was well punched away by Adam Federici.
Despite responding admirably to that set back, Brian McDermott’s men saw the deficit doubled after a piece of magic from Steven Fletcher – who brilliantly flicked home through his legs after great work by Danny Rose.
The visitors strived hard to fight back in the second period, introducing 18-year-old Dominic Samuel as the club’s youngest ever top flight player – but Noel Hunt’s stinging header was brilliantly saved by Simon Mignolet to sum up Reading’s night.
The match was rather harshly put beyond doubt in stoppage time, as Sessegnon broke away before coolly rounding Federici to roll home a third.
It was a baptism of fire for Brian McDermott’s men at the Stadium of Light, as the Black Cats came out with all guns blazing – taking the lead within the first two minutes.
Adam Federici punched Adam Johnson’s whipped corner kick away from a melee of bodies, but James McClean reacted quickly – sending home an unstoppable, skidding shot to give the home side an early advantage.
The Irish international almost had a brace moments later, but was denied by a finger tip save from Federici after dashing clear one-on-one with Reading’s Aussie stopper.
Reading almost had an equaliser in the ninth minute, and the chance was created by a familiar source – as Nicky Shorey’s clever free-kick was diverted towards goal by Alex Pearce, but a wrong footed Simon Mingolet was relieved to see it roll just wide of his far post.
That signalled the start of a good five minute spell from the Royals, who put the home side on the back foot with a series of attacks – though were almost caught out as Sessegnon’s superb turn and shot fizzed narrowly wide.
There still wasn’t in the game at that stage, but in the top flight a touch of class can appear out of nowhere – as the visitors found to their cost once more just before the half hour mark.
Industrious work from the left hand side resulted in a low ball into the box, and with his back to goal – top scorer Steven Fletcher brilliantly flicked through his legs to find the net past a helpless Federici.
Unperturbed, Tabb attempted to peg one back with a 25 yard snap shot after good work from McCleary – but could only clip his drive over the bar.
At the other end another lethal Johnson corner was headed towards goal by Fletcher, but on this occasion his effort floated well off target.
McAnuff also nodded over the bar before the half was up, and the blue and white hoops may have gone in at the break feeling slightly unfortunate to be two goals down.
Clever play by Le Fondre early in the second period resulted in a reverse ball to the on-rushing Hunt, who perhaps rushed his shot a little – as he clipped over the bar under pressure from Cuellar.
Jobi McAnuff was the next to grasp the initiative, winning a free-kick and bringing a caution upon Danny Rose after a driving run to the edge of the box. Shorey stepped up, and saw his trademark effort turned around the post by Mingolet. Mariappa got his head to the resulting corner, but diverted the ball way off target.
The next phase of the game was scrappy, with neither side making real inroads – an interlude briefly shattered as Sessegnon’s long range effort was well held by Federici.
There was a milestone for the Royals in the 72nd minute, as Academy product Dominic Samuel came off the bench to make his Reading, and indeed his professional debut. The 18-year-old striker became the club’s youngest ever top flight player.
It was seasoned pro Adam Federici who was impressing however, as he was on his toes once again in the 78th minute – diving low to palm away McClean’s sizzling daisy cutter.
Le Fondre made efforts to claw something back, acrobatically flicking Shorey’s cross towards goal – but once more the ball floated wide of the post.
The Royals best effort was still to come – again Shorey the provider, and Hunt this time rising - only to see his stinging header very well saved by Mingolet.