The Royals were left to rue missed opportunities in front of goal as they slipped to their first defeat of 2016 courtesy of a late winner for hosts MK Dons and an inspired goalkeeping display from their goalkeeper David Martin.
The MK Dons stopper had saved brilliantly from Piazon in the first half and denied Norwood with a flying stop in the second, while Matej Vydra had passed just wide when presented with a good chance by McCleary. But the match-winner came from a close range hook from Joe Walsh following a late uncleared Dons corner.
Manager Brian McDermott kept an unchanged side from the eleven that played the full ninety minutes at the iPro Stadium in midweek, making just one change to the substitutes bench to include Alex Fernandez in place of Paolo Hurtado. Former Royals Simon Church and Matt Upson started on the bench for the hosts.
Good persistence from McCleary on the right forced the first opening of the game, his cut back to Williams seeing the midfielder arrow a shot goalwards only to see it charged down on the edge of the box. Then, five minutes played, and Piazon spun his marker when threaded through by Robson-Kanu but he couldn't get a shot away.
Gunter got in behind but his low cross was intercepted before it could find HRK, while Maynard was shepherded away from goal by Cooper at the other end.
Ali Al Habsi had to be alert at his near post to turn a glancing Nicky Maynard header behind for a corner which Williams eventually cleared, then Forster-Caskey headed high over the bar when presented with a difficult chance from a Carruthers cross.
With 20 minutes on the clock, Reading broke well through Williams, McCleary and Piazon in midfield and then Taylor bursting down the left. His cross was pushed clear by Martin but it fell to McCleary whose left-footed shot deflected wide and behind for a corner.
Piazon then started another counter attack and continuing his run down the middle, Vydra couldn't find the forward with a return ball that fell short. The lively Piazon forced Martin into a sprawling save low to his left when he took aim with a curling right-footed effort that sought out the bottom right corner.
Robson-Kanu won a free kick on the right which Norwood delivered and it was headed down to the feet of Williams who drove a first time effort at goal only for it to be charged down by a crowd of MK Dons bodies.
At the other end the hosts threatened through a low Murphy cross that was scrapped clear at the near post with ten minutes of the first half remaining. Soon after Al Habsi had to punch clear an up and under that was landing on his own goalline, and Forster-Caskey drilled the follow-up effort over the bar.
Al Habsi came flying off his line to smother the ball at the feet of Maynard and Reading's break through McCleary almost broke the deadlock seconds later at the other end. The Royals winger bursts forward, toed his way past two challenges, came inside and fed the ball into the feet of an unmarked Vydra who passed his shot inches wide of the left post.
Half-time: MK Dons 0 Reading 0
The first chance of the second half fell to the visitors. McCleary was found by a neat flick from Piazon and his low cross saw Vydra tee up Williams whose right-footed drive was comfortably saved by Martin in the Dons goal.
Hall's inswinging free kick was dealt with by Ferdinand at the near post, but Vydra set Norwood for a powerful half-volleyed effort that Martin did brilliantly to push wide six minutes into the second half.
Williams had the ball in the net, but long after the linesman's flag had stopped McCleary in his tracks latching onto Vydra's pass down the right.
But Reading came closer breaking at pace from a Dons corner, Ferdinand's ball forward was brought down by Piazon racing down the middle and his shot cannoned into a MK Dons leg and fell to McCleary to the right side of the area. His low drive was parried by Martin and a good opportunity sizzled out.
On the hour, Ferdinand had to scoop a low Carruthers cross over his crossbar and behind for a corner - but Reading were looking the more likely to edge in front and as a result manager Brian McDermott made an attacking change to introduce Ola John for Piazon.
McFadzean was shown only a yellow card for tripping Vydra who was scampering onto a direct ball from the back and looking to bear down on goal. Norwood's free kick was aimed at an offside Ferdinand and the Royals were being frustrated as we went into the final 20 minutes.
Al Habsi was sliding off his line to thrwart Maynard who was looking to race onto a threaded throughball at the other end, then Murphy arrowed over after fouling Gunter in the build-up.
Ferdinand then had to keep pace with Murphy to half block his low cross from the left side of the Royals' penalty box and with 15 minutes left Al Habsi came off his line again to save well from Forster-Caskey who had found space in behind following a ricochet that fell his way.
From the resultant corner however, the home side took the lead. An inswinging set piece pinballed inside a crowded Royals six yard box and Joe Walsh
was there to hook a high ball past Al Habsi from yards out.
Reading had 13 minutes of normal time to respond and Hal Robson-Kanu was replaced by Simon Cox, then Vydra scurried onto a chest down but saw the ball hoofed into the stand by Martin before he could touch it into the box and look to get a shot away.
And although the Royals threw everything at their hosts in the final stages, Dons held on for all three points.
Full-time: MK Dons 1 Reading 0
MK Dons: Martin, Spence, Lewington (c), McFadzean, Walsh, Potter, Forster-Caskey, Hall (Upson 87), Carruthers (Hodson 90), Murphy (Bowditch 90), Maynard.
Subs: Cropper, Hitchcock, Reeves, Church.
Yellow: Carruthers, McFadzean
Reading: Al Habsi, Gunter, Taylor, Ferdinand, Cooper, Norwood (c), Williams, Piazon (John 64), McCleary, Robson-Kanu (Cox 82), Vydra.
Subs: Bond, Keown, Fernandez, Quinn, Sa.
Yellow: Gunter, Taylor, Williams
Referee: Mr Charles Breakspear
Att: 13,062 (2,910 away)