Barnsley simply got out of the blocks quicker, harrying the man on the ball in midfield and forcing Reading into three horrible defensive errors, two of which resulted in goals. Only 90 seconds had gone when Andy Liddell broke free in the box and delivered a speculative low cross, which central defender Paul Holsgrove guided inside the near post.
Three minutes later, the Reading player-coach, Mick Gooding, misjudged a back header, allowing the pacey Clint Marcelle to burst through only to be denied by a fine low save from Steve Mautone. On 15 minutes, Reading were not so lucky: Gooding again took an age to clear the ball, eventually blasting it against a Barnsley leg to allow Liddell to pick up the ricochet and drive low into the net.
Holsgrove tried to make amends with a fierce 25-yard free-kick but Reading's way back into the game also owed more to luck than forward planning. Lee Nogan fell under an extremely innocuous looking challenge by Arjan De Zeeuw and Trevor Morley gratefully notched up his 23rd goal of the season with an accurate penalty.
Barnsley were unsettled by the perceived injustice and the remainder of the first half disintegrated into an uncultured, shapeless affair, with the players more intent on pursing niggling, personal disputes than playing football.
Bookings became inevitable and Martin Williams, De Zeeuw, Steve Blatherwick and the combative Darren Sheridan were all shown the yellow card before the interval.
Tempers cooled in the second half but the referee, Steve Bennett, still found reason to book three more players as Barnsley steadied the tempo and shut Reading out.
The Barnsley manager, Danny Wilson, was delighted with the result but less than impressed with the referee. "Some of his decisions were diabolical," he fumed.
Reading (3-5-2): Mautone; Blatherwick, McPherson, Holsgrove; Bernal, Parkinson (Caskey, 77), Gooding, Williams (Quinn, 77), Bodin; Morley (Lovell, 47), Nogan.
Barnsley (3-5-2): Watson; Appleby (Bosancic, 50), Moses, De Zeeuw; Eaden, Sheridan, Redfearn, Marcelle, Thompson; Hendrie, Liddell. Substitutes not used: Ten Heuvel, Bullock.
Referee: S Bennett (Redhill).Reuse content