Everton completed a routine win, only their second in the Premier League in two months, to keep the pressure on in the pursuit of Champions League places.
Goals from top scorer Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas improved a disappointing return for David Moyes's team in 2013 and kept them within six points of the top four. And they had to overcome considerable disruption to secure it.
Already without goalkeeper Tim Howard due to a back injury incurred in the midweek FA Cup victory over Oldham, they also lost captain Phil Jagielka within five minutes of the start following an over-zealous challenge from the Reading striker Adam le Fondre.
That contributed to a rather underwhelming start from Moyes's team, whose push for a top-four Premier League finish has lost its early season steam in recent weeks. Indeed, they failed to extend Reading's reserve goalkeeper Stuart Taylor in the opening half-hour.
Reading, bearing the top flight's worst away record, were agonisingly close to taking the lead only seconds after losing Jimmy Kébé to a groin problem. Ian Harte's 19th-minute corner was flicked on by Mikele Leigertwood, and Sylvain Distin's attempted clearance was lashed against the upright by Le Fondre.
However, Leon Osman's scheming finally clicked Everton into gear and his 31st-minute through ball sent Nikica Jelavic clear, only for the former Manchester City goalkeeper Taylor to block the Croatian's left-footed effort with his legs. Five minutes later it took a Taylor parry to force away a Mirallas curler.
Fellaini showed no ill effects from the knee injury that threatened his presence before the kick-off, and opened the scoring three minutes before the break when Seamus Coleman manufactured enough space on the right to sling over a cross which was headed into the top corner by the Belgian. Only the fingertips of Taylor prevented Fellaini doubling the lead with an audacious volley from the byline in first-half injury time.
When Taylor was beaten for a second time it was from a fine Pienaar strike from distance, unleashed after cutting in from the right, just shy of the hour.
Any doubt about the result was removed midway through the second half when Pienaar turned provider for Mirallas to sell Taylor one way before tucking inside the near post. The Reading substitute Hal Robson-Kanu's late header was no more than a consolation.