A stunning second half free kick from Jeremie Bela saw Birmingham City leave the Madejski Stadium with all three points as they put three past the Royals.
Birmingham went ahead through a fortuitous deflection off Michael Morrison before Yakou Meite levelled the score with a header just before half-time. But Bela scored with a spectacular 25 yard free kick to beat Rafael, before the Blues wrapped the game up late on through Alvaro Gimenez’ goal despite Lucas Joao’s consolation goal in stoppage time.
Mark Bowen named an unchanged Reading side from their successful 3-1 away trip to Wigan last weekend after George Puscas’ heroic hat-trick.
The Royals expected to have Ovie Ejaria back, who missed out last weekend through illness, but he was kept out through a groin injury while John Swift and Sam Baldock both missed out with injury.
Birmingham, who came into the match win-less on the road in their last six away matches, won the first corner of the match but Reading countered quickly with Puscas, Andy Yiadom and Yakou Meite and won a corner of their own. Pele took the set piece in Swift’s absence, but his corner was comfortably cleared of danger.
Reading tried to force the issue as they won another couple of corners after a dangerous cross from Omar Richards who tried to find Meite in the middle but was denied by good defending. Matt Miazga headed wide of the target from the resulting corner.
Both sides struggled to find their rhythm in the first-half, with several injury stoppages throughout. Birmingham were forced into two early changes as Wes Harding replaced Jake Clarke-Salter in the 15th minute before Dan Crowley was forced off with an injury and replaced by Jacques Maghoma in the 30th minute.
The hosts began to show some brighter sides as the Madejski crowd responded in due course, with Puscas getting a shot away on goal after Yiadom slipped a through ball to the forward, but he was denied by the offside flag.
Former Birmingham City captain Michael Morrison stayed alert in the heart of the Royals defence to smash away a testing cross.
Birmingham then went ahead in the 41st minute through a freak goal. Morrison stretched to block a Jude Bellingham effort but the ball took a wicked deflection as it flew over Rafael into the back of the net.
But the Royals weren’t behind for long as a spell of three corner in quick succession finally ended in an end product.
Pele’s super delivery was met by Meite who lost his marker and powerfully headed the ball into the corner to equalise just three minutes after the Blues’ opener to take the sides in level at the break.
Bowen made one change at half-time, with Argentine forward Lucas Boye taking the place of Matt Miazga as the Royals switched to a 4-4-2 formation.
Morrison charged out of the defence and missed his tackle as the Blues looked to burst through but a superb recovery run and tackle from Pele prevented the visitors from striking at goal.
Birmingham looked the more likely to re-take the lead early in the second half and they almost did as Maghoma worked some space and fired a shot at goal which crashed back off the crossbar.
The Royals had to soak up a lot of Birmingham pressure and it eventually told as the away side took the lead for the second time.
Garath McCleary gave away a clumsy foul with a frustrated tackle after he wasn’t given a free kick moments before at the other end. Birmingham took advantage as Jeremie Bela smashed the ball into the top corner with a stunning strike from 25 yards.
Pele’s delivery continued to be consistent from corners and it almost led to another equaliser as Puscas’ header bounced back off the bar.
Bowen made his second change in the 65th minute as Lucas Joao replaced McCleary.
Bela looked to work his magic from another free kick from a similar distance, but Rafael flew to his right to beat the ball away from goal.
The hosts then made their final change of the game as experienced midfielder Charlie Adam replaced Pele in the 75th minute.
Rafael made another smart save to keep out Lukas Jutkiewicz’ strong effort before Lucas Joao blazed the ball high into the stands after a golden chance to pull Reading level from Yiadom’s cut back from Reading’s best chance of the half.
Birmingham sealed the points late in the day as the ball fell kindly for Gimenez after Morrison’s tackle and he caressed the ball into the corner to gift wrap the points for the away side.
Lucas Joao clawed back a late goal in stoppage time as his touch diverted the ball past Trueman to trickle over the line, but it wouldn’t be enough to spark a revival as City held on to their lead.
Defeat leaves Reading in 18th position in the Championship with two away trips on the horizon, first against bottom of the table Barnsley on Wednesday evening before the Royals visit 23rd place Stoke City next Saturday.
Reading: Rafael, Richards, Morrison, Miazga, Moore (c), Yiadom, Rinomhota, Pele, Meite, Puscas, McCleary.
Subs: Walker, Gunter, Loader, Boye, Blackett, Adam, Joao.
Birmingham City: Trueman, Pedersen, Dean (c), Crowley, Sunjic, Bellingham, Gimenez, Colin, Clarke-Salter, Bela, McEachran.
Subs: Camp, Harding, Jutkiewicz, Montero, Maghoma, Davis, Bailey.