Yakou Méïté’s double in the first 15 minutes of match was enough to earn the Royals a valuable three points on home turf, as Brentford were vanquished 2-1 at Madejski Stadium.
The Ivorian struck two early goals to send the Royals racing into an early lead. But Neal Maupay hit back in the final minute of the first half to set up a nervy second period.
The Royals had chances to further extend the lead; the Bees had opportunities to level. Ultimately the scoreline stayed the same and ensured that Reading finished the day three points better off.
There was only a single change to the starting XI; Nélson Oliveira returned to the centre-forward role, after missing out on the squad against parent club Norwich in midweek. Tyler Blackett was the man to drop to the bench as the Royals returned to a more familiar formation.
The game took a bit of time to spring into life; Ollie Watkins was first to register an effort on the spin, but nothing that brought any great discomfort to Emi Martínez in the Reading net.
But before long, it was Luke Daniels who had to pick the ball out of the net as a cutting attack got the Royals' noses in front. An agricultural clearance by Lewis Baker turned into a delightful pass for Mo Barrow; the Gambian winger got the ball out of his feet and laid a well-weighted ball into the path of Méïté, who coolly placed past the advancing goalkeeper.
A penalty shout was waved away by the referee when Méïté appeared to be taken out mid-flight by Moses Odubajo in the box - nothing doing for the official. Nevertheless Reading played on and Oliveira squeezed a low cross to the far post, but inexplicably Barrow couldn't make contact to poke into the empty net.
The lead was doubled soon enough, though. Andy Rinomhota was clipped by Said Benrahma wide on the right, allowing Lewis Baker to whip in a free-kick. There was pace and precision on the delivery, meaning that the deftest of glances by Méïté on the near side sent the ball arrowing into the far corner.
Watkins twice had half-chances to get the Bees back in it, but Chris Gunter made a good block to keep out his header, before teammate Benrahma inadvertently obstructed him as he darted downfield and causing him to scuff his strike.
Brentford looked to control possession and quieten the home crowd. Reading stuck to their task defensively, meaning that Josh Da Silva's long-range effort was easily picked off by Martínez, and Benrahma's 25-yard punt was wildly askew.
Reading could have put themselves out of sight when a breakaway carved the Bees in half. Baker threaded into Oliveira's path; the forward clipped past Mads Bech Sorensen but had to delay his shot as the onrushing Méïté was in close quarters. Shifting onto his left, he forced Daniels into a smart stop down low.
A positive, dynamic display in the first period - with plenty of commitment to attack - was well-appreciated by the Madejski Stadium crowd. Andy Yiadom was bombing on at will and dragged an effort wide of the near post as he cut onto his left boot.
The visitors got back within one just before the interval. Benrahma's free-kick from the best part of 30 yards had swerve and dip; Martínez kept out the first effort, but Maupay followed in with a stooping header. So just a sole goal in it at the break.
Half-time: Reading 2-1 Brentford
The Royals came under some early pressure after the break, but nearly extended their lead further in spectacular fashion. After Rinomhota had been cleaned out by Sorensen 40 yards from goal, Baker tried to catch the goalkeeper off guard with players lined up in the centre. Daniels, backtracking, tipped over the bar.
Méïté's aerial prowess nearly earned him his hat-trick just after the hour; it was bold work by Yiadom on the right flank that allowed him to send it a cross from deep, but the Ivorian's header flicked over the frame of goal.
A loose clearance from the Bees gave Reading another opportunity - and it was one that was agonisingly wasted. Barrow laid in Yiadom down the right, whose whipped cross cut the goalkeeper out of the game - but Oliveira could only turn his volley over the bar from six yards.
Garath McCleary was introduced at the midpoint of the second half and switched on the afterburners down the left to latch onto Rinomhota's through-ball; he squared for Ovie Ejaria, but the Liverpool loanee fired wide.
Brentford began to pile on the pressure and Martínez twice produced smart stops to prevent equalising goals. Substitute Sergi Canos drilled low and hard after picking up from Watkins, and then defender Sorensen headed at goal after staying forward after a set-piece. Two important stops.
Fresh legs were introduced late on; Callum Harriott was booked soon after coming on as he tracked back on a Reading counter, and Tyler Blackett added another body to the defence.
The visitors kept up their effort in the five added minutes; the Reading defence stood strong. Goalkeeper Daniels went up to attack a couple of Brentford corners at the death, but to no avail. Elation at the final whistle.
Full-time: Reading 2-1 Brentford
Reading: Martínez, Gunter, Yiadom, Moore (c), Miazga, Baker, Rinomhota, Ejaria, Barrow (McCleary 68), Méïté (Harriott 85), Oliveira (Blackett 89).
Unused: Walker, Baldock, Barrett, McIntyre.
Goals: Méïté (8, 15).
Yellow: Ejaria, Rinomhota, Gunter, Harriott.
Brentford: Daniels, Odubajo (Forss 78), Dalsgaard, Konsa, Sorensen, Jeanvier, Da Silva (Marcondes 68), Sawyers (c), Benrahma (Canos 58), Watkins, Maupay.
Unused subs: Balcombe, Ogbene, Field, Oksanen.
Goal: Maupay (45).
Attendance: 16,892 (1,954 away).
Referee: Mr S Martin