Jamie Mackie came back to haunt the side he represented on loan with the only goal in a scrappy game played in freezing cold conditions at Madejski Stadium this evening.
The QPR forward finished off a slick move midway through the first half with a back post finish from close range and although Yann Kermorgant struck the crossbar with a second half header, a lacklustre Royals side couldn't find a way through ten Rangers men who defended their lead resolutely until the final whistle.
Royals boss Jaap Stam made two changes to the side that were beaten by Manchester United in the FA Cup at the weekend, John Swift coming in for George Evans in midfield and Jordan Obita replacing the injured Tyler Blackett at the back. Chris Gunter continued with the captain's armband and made his 400th career appearance in front of the Sky Sports cameras. Rangers, meanwhile, named ex-Royal Jamie Mackie in their starting eleven.
The first shot in anger came from a Reading boot - the ball was played up to Kermogant, who nodded the ball down for McCleary to take aim - and he lashed a first time shot just over the bar with Alex Smithies desperately back-pedalling.
Jamie Mackie arrowed over after a mix up between Van den Berg and Obita at the back, while at the other end Kermorgant's cross into the middle was calmly headed clear and Roy Beerens was caught offside as he broke in behind the Rangers back line.
Kermorgant too was denied a shot at goal by the offside flag when Kelly's well-placed ball forward was brought down by the Frenchman inside the area. But Sylla came close to breaking the deadlock when he slid in at the far post but directed his shot wide following Mackie's early low cross that skidded across the six yard box.
The opening goal came from the right boot of Mackie though. A good passing move saw the ball cut back by Wszolek to Manning who helped it on to Mackie unmarked and six yards out at the back post. He hammered the ball high into the Royals net and handed Ian Holloway's men the lead.
The Royals almost responded immediately, Swift carving a route towards goal and sweeping a right-footed effort wide of the left upright from 20 yards out.
But Mackie came close to a second soon after. More joy down the right for Rangers ended up with the ball being pulled back for Mackie, who dragged a right-footed effort just wide of the bottom left corner via a slight deflection off Moore.
The Royals were enjoying possession but not creating enough in the final third, Williams driving at goal from 25 yards out but the ball was easily saved by Smithies low to his right.
Ali Al Habsi came racing off his line and forced Pawel Wszolek wide of the penalty box without getting the ball off the Rangers counter attacking forward. Joey van den Berg slid in well to prevent Wszolek picking a pass to a teammate in front of a gaping goalmouth and Rangers had to settle for a corner.
Superb chasing from Kermorgant forced Smithies into a mistake in the opposite goal, the QPR keeper passing the ball straight to Williams before McCleary's low cross was hacked behind for a corner.
A Kelly free kick was followed by a Kelly corner, both causing a little trouble in the visiting team's penalty box, but the one minute of injury time elapsed and Reading went into the dressing room with work to do.
Half-time: Reading 0-1 QPR
Full of confidence, Rangers began the second half the better with a couple of Liam Moore headers needed to avert the early danger. But soon Reading began to exert pressure of their own and Obita's low cross bobbed into the box from the left and almost fell for Kermorgant before QPR could scrap it clear.
Kermorgant scurried onto a threaded ball in behind with ten minutes of the second half played but he tried to cut the ball across instead of taking a shot and Rangers were back in numbers to clear the danger.
QPR counter attacked from their own half minutes later, Wszolek breaking down the right and crossing low into Sylla who picked his spot only to be denied by a combination of Al Habsi and Moore on the goalline.
On the hour, Van den Berg played a direct ball forward and Beerens beat the offside trap this time, bringing it down but seeing his shot blocked by Lynch's leg before it could trouble Smithies.
But Sylla was still causing trouble at the other end and it took a fine sliding block from Moore to deflect the striker's shot wide when Bidwell pulled a low cross into his feet from the left. The set piece dropped scrappily for Lynch to drive at goal, but it cannoned off Obita and luckily spun just wide of the goal.
Then the woodwork came to Rangers' rescue when McCleary powered down the right and lofted a cross into the box where Kermorgant met it and directed a header past Smithies and against the crossbar.
Smithies punched clear a Kelly corner after Lua Lua and Meite had been introduced by each manager. But Reading couldn't find their usual rhythm at all on a frustrating evening.
Rangers were growing more and more tired, but when Beerens floated a cross into the area and Kermorgant powered a header back across goal but agonisingly wide, it seemed that this was not going to be our night.
And so it proved. Three minutes of injury time played out and Rangers celebrated an away victory - inflicting only our second home defeat of the season.
Full-time: Reading 0-1 QPR
Reading: Al-Habsi, Gunter (c), Obita, Van den Berg, L.Moore, Swift (Meite 73), Williams, Kelly, Beerens, McCleary, Kermorgant.
Subs: S.Moore, Cooper, Evans, Samuel, Wieser, Watson.
Queens Park Rangers: Smithies, Bidwell, Hall, Onuoha, Lynch, Mackie (Comley 90), Wszolek, Luongo, Furlong, Sylla (LuaLua 73), Manning (Doughty 85).
Subs: Ingram, El Khayati, Ngbakoto, Shodipo.
Goals: Mackie (28)