Two breakaway goals inside the first 20 minutes were enough to give the visitors the points, despite the Lilywhites dominating possession at Deepdale.
John Swift and Lucas Joao grabbed the goals, within four minutes of each other, for Mark Bowen’s Reading and despite 20 shots on goal, Alex Neil’s side were unable to get back into the game.
Two changes had been made to the side that drew with Leeds United on Boxing Day with Billy Bodin and Josh Harrop replacing Tom Barkhuizen and the injured David Nugent.
And the two additions to the starting XI combined to almost see their side ahead in the eighth minute. Bodin found the ball in the middle of the Royals half and freed Harrop who ran on towards the penalty area before sliding in Brad Potts into space in the right side of the box.
The No.44 fired goalwards hard and low, but visiting keeper Rafael made the first of what was to be multiple fine saves, his back leg keeping out the effort.
But the visitors went in front on 12 minutes as Charlie Adam found Tyler Blackett on the overlap down the left and he pulled the ball back to Swift, who fired home from 12 yards.
And it was two just four minutes later as another Blackett run from deep went right down the middle of the PNE defence, before feeding Joao in the left corner of the box, who fired into the bottom right-hand corner.
North End returned to their dominance in the game with a Bodin shot deflected wide for a corner after a Harrop lay-off mid-way through the half, but they were almost caught out with a third, Joao adjudged to have been offside when Meite’s long-distance strike hit the left post.
However, that was the last real chance for Reading in the game and it came just after the half hour mark!
The home side came out after the break and continued to dominate possession and chances. Rafael pulled off an unbelievable stop less that three minutes in, tipping a 30 yard curling effort from Bodin around the post for a corner, with the ball arrowing towards the top left corner.
Just after the hour mark Ben Pearson broke into the penalty area and found Sean Maguire, whose shot was blocked by Liam Moore, before moments later Rafael somehow made a stop with his backside when it looked by a diving Tom Clarke header from Andrew Hughes’ left-wing cross had squirmed underneath him.
The Royals keeper made yet another stop as the game entered the final five minutes, Maguire’s back post header from substitute Paul Gallagher’s cross on target yet again until the No.33 got in the way.
The Irishman knew he was not getting any luck in the third minute of stoppage time, as his goal-bound shot from Tom Barkhuizen’s pull back came off the face of Liam Moore and went behind for a corner, from which Jayden Stockley headed an inch wide from Ben Davies’ ball into the box, the visitors holding on to record the win.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Clarke (c) (Stockley, 69), Hughes, Pearson, Huntington, Davies, Bodin, Browne, Maguire, Potts (Gallagher, 60), Harrop (Barkhuizen, 60). Subs not used: Ripley, Fisher, Bayliss, Ledson.
Reading line-up: Cabral, Gunter, Morrison, Moore (c), Swift (McCleary, 74), Ejaria, Meite (Obita, 83), Blackett, Adam (Rinomhota, 65), Pele, Joao. Subs not used: Walker, Miazga, Boye, Olise.
Attendance: 13,680 (557 Reading fans)
Referee: Mr J Gillett