The under-21s' six-game unbeaten run came to an end away at Blackburn Rovers, who ran out 2-0 winners at Leigh Sports Village.
Chris Cummins' side held their own for the first 45 minutes but were undone by two second half goals.
Rovers made a brighter start to the game but winger Jordan Obita came very close to opening the scoring with a free-kick that nearly caught out the Blackburn goalkeeper.
The Royals grew into the half as it went on - and had three chances in quick succession. Obita troubled Rovers' defence with another free kick, before Aaron Tshibola had a vicious effort well saved.
The lively Obita came close once again before the break, but his low left-footed effort was just wide of the goal.
Blackburn came flying out of the blocks in the second half, and were rewarded when Raheem Hanley curled home to give the hosts the lead.
Dan Lincoln was called into action a couple of times to keep the score 1-0, before Academy hat-trick duo Craig Tanner and then Uche Ikpeazu were introduced.
But goalscorer Hanley turned provider as he set Osayamen Osawe to make it two with less than ten minutes remaining.
With just one game remaining it's a scramble for the coveted third place - the young Royals will take on Arsenal on Sunday at Madejski Stadium.
Royals: Lincoln, Arnold, Griffin (Long 85), Webb, Keown, Sweeney, Edwards, Tshibola (Ikpeazu 70), Samuel, Losasso (Tanner 61), Obita.
Subs not used: Henley.