After a cagey first half, three goals within the space of less than five second half minutes lit up the game.
Jimmy Kebe, returning from injury, broke the deadlock just after the hour, collecting McAnuff's pass just inside the box, turning and stabbing wide of Steve Harper's dive to send Madejski Stadium wild.
The euphoria was dampened only a minute later when Newcastle levelled out of nowhere. Cheik Tiote's ball forward dropped over Demba Ba's shoulder and the in-form Magpies striker powered an exquisite volley past McCarthy to level.
But McAnuff carved an opening at the other end, crossing from the left for Noel Hunt to glance a header inside the right upright.
Reading looked comfortable in their lead until Ba stooped low to direct Shane Ferguson's near post cross past McCarthy with his right arm. The officials spotted nothing wrong with the goal and Newcastle were level again.
Roberts forced Harper into a superb save late on and McAnuff curled a great effort against the post in injury time as McDermott's men threw everything at their opponents. But in the end Reading had to settle for a point.
Subs: Elliot, Anita, Obertan, Sammy Ameobi.
Yellow: Perch, Williamson, Gutierrez.
The game got off to a cagey start, as both teams sized each other up for the first 15 minutes.
The first opening fell Reading's way, McAnuff was fed by Pogrebnyak and the winger's dangerous cross was only inches too high for the rising Russian.
And a cross from the other side from Cummings was equally dangerous, Hunt winning it in the air but Harper sweeping up his knock down before Pogrebnyak could latch onto it.
Reading were creating a flurry of half chances, Shorey hooking a speculative volley well wide before Pogrebnyak snatched at a shot after a good pass was threaded through to him from midfield.
And on the half hour mark, the home side's pressure almost told. McAnuff's far post cross was met by the head of Pogrebnyak who nodded it towards the top corner, only for Steve Harper to pull off an excellent reaction save and tip over.
Reading threatened to get the breakthrough in the closing stages of the first half and came close with the last touch of the opening period. Hunt made progress down the right and floated a cross in to Pogrebnyak, who brilliantly chested it down 10 yards out. But Perch hacked it off the toes of the striker before he could stab it goalwards.
But Reading were looking the more likely scorers - and so it proved just after the hour. McAnuff slid the ball into Jimmy Kebe on the egde of the box and, turning onto his right boot he stabbed the ball past Harper to put the Royals 1-0 up.
The delirium didn't last long though. United were level only a minute later, when Cheik Tiote's direct ball forward was superbly volleyed home by Demba Ba. His first time effort flew past the helpless McCarthy to see Pardew's men level immediately.
But Reading refused to let their heads drop and minutes later they led again. Jobi McAnuff did well down the right and delivered a lovely cross for Noel Hunt to glance past Harper inside the right post.
But Ba didn't disappoint with 7 minutes remaining, stooping low to turn Shane Ferguson's cross home with what looked to be a flailing right arm.
Reading chased the game again, substitute Le Fondre almost scampering onto a low Roberts cross at the near post.
And a brilliant Harper save high to his left denied Roberts himself in the dying stages, as McDermott's men threw everything at United in the hunt for a deserved victory.