Reading 1 (Pogrebnyak 19 pen)
Barnsley 3 (Dawson 16, Noble-Lazarus 53, Jennings 57)
Three excellent finishes dealt a blow to the Royals' hopes of securing a play-off place as Barnsley ran out comfortable 3-1 winners at Madejski Stadium.
Stephen Dawson capitalised on a mistake at the back in the 16th minute, guiding home Chris O'Grady's cut back after the striker had intercepted a Chris Gunter back pass.
Reading levelled only a few of minutes later when Pavel Pogrebnyak was brought down by Kelvin Etuhu in the box, and the Russian stroked home from the spot.
But Nigel Adkins' men never recovered from two goals within the space of four second half minutes, substitute Reuben Noble-Lazarus curling a superb effort into the top left corner before Dale Jennings hammered home a stunning drive from distance.
Nick Blackman lobbed over the crossbar and Steele pulled off a wonderful save from Alex Pearce's header, but a lacklustre Royals side never really looked like bouncing back. A disappointing night.
Reading: McCarthy, Gunter, Obita, Gorkss, Pearce, Akpan, McAnuff (c), McCleary, Blackman (Le Fondre 58), Drenthe (Robson-Kanu 71), Pogrebnyak.
Subs: Federici, Kelly, Hector, J Taylor, Tanner.
Barnsley: Steele, Kennedy, Nyatanga, Etuhu, M'voto, Lawrence (Frimpong 71), Cywka, Dawson, Jennings, O'Grady, Pedersen (Noble-Lazarus HT).
Subs: Turner, McCourt, Hassell, Proschwitz, Mellis.
Yellow: Dawson, Frimpong
Referee: Mr S Martin
Att: 16,645 (182 away)
Liam Lawrence had the first shot at goal, dragging an effort harmlessly wide of the bottom left corner, then a Garath McCleary inswinger almost found Pogrebnyak in the box, the ball cut out just before it reached the Russian.
Alex McCarthy then had to be alert to a swerving Stephen Dawson piledriver and then save Lawrence's follow-up effort. Only seconds later, Luke Steele had to make an even better save, racing off his line to deny McCleary a wonderful solo goal after the midfielder had cut through the Barnsley midfield and glided into the box.
The deadlock was broken by Barnsley on the quarter hour mark and again it stemmed from an unforced error from the home side. Chris Gunter's back pass was intercepted by Chris O'Grady before it could roll through to Alex McCarthy. O'Grady calmly teed up Dawson with a cut back from the byline and the Tykes skipper sidefooted into the top right corner to give Danny Wilson's side the lead.
Only three minutes later, Reading had the chance to restore parity. Pavel Pogrebnyak was released by McAnuff and tripped by the feet of Kelvin Etuhu inside the box. Referee Stephen Martin pointed straight to the spot and Pogrebnyak sent Steele the wrong way and buried it low into the bottom right corner.
Jordan Obita had a shot deflected inches wide on the half hour mark after some good build up play from Blackman, Drenthe and Akpan on the right flank. Then Dale Jennings lashed high over the crossbar at the other end.
McAnuff then did brilliantly to burst down the left and squeeze in between two Barnsley defenders to scamper into the area. He scuttled into a central position but his low drive was well blocked.
Before half time, O'Grady saw a fleeting chance go begging, winning a header in the area and collecting the one-two but sliding a first time shot well wide of the target.
Barnsley picked up as they left off, nipping at Reading's heels, and McCarthy was scrambling across his goalline early on to clutch on to a deflected effort that was bobbling towards the bottom corner.
Nick Blackman then earned a great chance to give Reading the lead. Getting in front of his man and onto a long ball from deep, he nonchalantly tried to lob the onrushing Steele, but it looped over the bar and onto the roof of the net.
The teams were taking it in turns to get an opportunity and Barnsley made Reading pay with their next one. Worked beautifully across to susbtitute Reuben Noble-Lazarus on the edge of the box, he touched it onto his left boot and curled the ball into the top left corner with aplomb.
And another wonderful strike made it 3-1 to the Tykes. From 25 yards out, left winger Dale Jennings bulleted high past the dive of McCarthy and inside the left post to silence Madejski Stadium.
Le Fondre was brought off the bench immediately for Blackman but a golden chance fell to the feet of Drenthe, Pogrebnyak bundling his way past a defender and the ball running free to the Dutchman's feet. He drilled a low sweetly-struck effort just wide though.
Barnsley were defending well and the Royals struggling to find a way through, and with 20 minutes remaining Drenthe cut in from the right flank and arrowed a 25-yard effort over the bar.
Obita's clever free kick was dinked towards Pearce, peeling away at the far post, and he nodded back into the middle where Gorkss's header was scrapped clear, despite Le Fondre winding up an overhead.
And a superb save from Steele denied Alex Pearce himself moments later, the centre-back's header looked to be sailing in but Steele leapt to his left and tipped it over the bar to Pearce's disbelief.
McCleary brought down a lovely crossfield ball and touched it inside for Le Fondre but he couldn't gather it in to shoot and time was fast running out.
In truth, the Royals were well below par and ran out of ideas against a Barnsley side hungry for a win that might ignite a great escape at the other end of the table.