The Royals left Pride Park with nothing to show for a fine second half performance and overall dominant display that was denied any reward by two goals in the final throes of the first half.
The home side had the lion's share of the early possession and the first meaningful shot at goal. The ball was swept across to the left side of the Royals box where Chris Martin nodded it down for Tom Lawrence to run onto - but his low sweetly struck effort was smothered by Rafael low to his right.
At the other end, John Swift took aim from the edge of the Rams' box but his arced effort sailed over the crossbar without overly concerning Ben Hamer in the County goal.
A wonderful chance fell Reading's way with 20 minutes gone - Gunter won the ball in midfield and sprayed it into space down the left where Ovie had acres to run onto it and drive at goal. He slid the ball inside for Puscas who dummied to get past one challenge before arrowing just over the bar from 15 yards out.
Puscas was darting in behind moments later, but the offside flag stopped his run short on this occasion as Mark Bowen's men began to earn some valuable possession.
Reading began well after the drinks break too - Michael Olise floating a lovely cross towards the far post where Meite met it but could only turn the ball behind for a goal kick.
Olise tested Hamer's handling himself when he connected first time with a low Richards pull back to the edge of the Rams' area. And Ejaria came very close when some neat trickery down the left saw him wriggle past Waghorn, inside along the byline and pull the trigger - the ball struck the outside of the post and after a little bit of pinball resulted in a corner for the visitors.
But Lawrence had proven a problem all half and minutes before the break the Rams midfielder was given the chance to take aim - which he did to perfection, curling past the outstretched left arm of Rafael and inside the right post for 1-0.
And before half-time the game was all but put to bed from the penalty spot. Bogle's run down the right ended with a squared ball for Waghorn who went down seemingly tripped inside the area by Liam Moore and Wayne Rooney stepped up to send the Royals stopper the wrong way and make it 2-0.
Half-time | Derby County 2-0 Reading
Reading began the second half on the front foot, Gunter fizzing a low cross across the face of goal but there was no-one there to get a decisive touch.
A prodded effort from Sibley was easily gathered in by Rafael just before the hourmark, but Reading were probing themselves in search an goal that might get them back into the game - Richards whistling a cross across the box but without finding a target in the middle.
And that route back into the game came from the head of Andy Rinomhota. A Swift corner on the right was only half punched clear and the midfielder brilliantly placed a header over everyone and just under the crossbar to halve the deficit.
A deflected Olise effort from range came close as the Royals pressed for an equaliser, Hamer coming to collect an Olise-won and taken free kick moments later.
Meite was harshly thwarted by the offside flag as he scampered after a delightful threaded ball through the Derby defence - Reading were making all the running going into the final quarter of the game.
McCleary replaced the injured Olise and immediately caused problems with a good run down the right and a floated cross that was bundled downwards by Ejaria's head and was scooped away from the bottom right corner of the goal by Hamer's glove.
Obita and Masika were brought on but time was running out for the Royals who had been dominant throughout the second half but hadn't been able to find that all important second goal.
Derby were hanging on and a corner from the left almost presented Meite with half a chance, getting a head to a high second ball but Hamer clutching onto it in a busy box.
And despite our best efforts, the equaliser never came.
To rub salt into the wounds, frustrations spilled over after the final whistle and referee Scott Duncan showed a red card to Tom Lawrence and Matt Miazga for an altercation off the ball.
Full-time | Derby County 2-1 Reading
Derby County: Hamer, Wisdom, Forsyth, Waghorn (Holmes 79), Lawrence, Clarke, Martin (Davies 79), Rooney (c) (Knight 80), Bogle, Sibley (Shinnie 69), Bird.
Unused subs: Roos, Jozefzoon, Lowe, Huddlestone, Whittaker.
Goals: Lawrence 44, Rooney pen 45
Yellow: Lawrence, Shinnie, Holmes.
Reading: Rafael, Gunter, Richards (Obita 82), Moore (c), Miazga, Rinomhota, Swift, Ejaria (Masika 82), Olise (McCleary 76), Méïté, Puscas (Baldock 61).
Unused subs: Walker, Blackett, Morrison, Adam, Pele.
Goals: Rinomhota 61
Referee: Mr S Duncan