Reading dominated early on, Nicky Forster came closest to breaking the deadlock, a thunderous effort from him smacked the underside of the crossbar.
Once the home side had got their goal the Royals rarely threatened until a desperate surge to get back on level terms late on.
At the end of the day boss Alan Pardew was left to think of what might have been had any one of his sides many chances gone in.
Speaking after the final whistle Pards said: "We had numerous chances, if you don't take them at this level it comes back to haunt you.
"We feel a little bit aggrieved, we should have had it sewn up early on. We've got the flu bug going around, so we were a bit under the weather and had a few players out there struggling late on.
"It was a bit of a shame for us. I can't remember coming to an away ground where the home team have had to defend so much. I said to the players that's a statement of how far we've come.
"I was slightly disappointed with my two wide players, Rouge and Salako. I expected more from them. They weren't really firing on all cylinders and after thirty minutes they weren't that effective.
"We chased it a bit at the end, but they defended resolutely to seal the game."
The result sees Reading drop down to 12th in the league going into Tuesday's clash with Bradford.