Reading came into the game without a win in eight matches but were up against the worst travelling attack.
The result was settled on five minutes, Pogrebnyak capitalising on an error from James Collins as the visitors struggled for any fluidity.
The second half followed the same pattern. West Ham did enjoy spells of dominance, but their final ball and set-piece delivery continued to hold them back. Their best chance fell to substitute Ricardo Vaz Te three yards out, but he could only head wide. It merely summed up the day for the Hammers.
Sam Allardyce was able to call on Carlton Cole after his red card against Everton was overturned, and the West Ham boss chose to operate a 4-5-1 formation, with Kevin Nolan operating behind Cole. Brian McDermott chose to match his opposite number, with Pogrebnyak utilised as a lone striker with Adam Le Fondre and Noel Hunt on the bench.
It took just five minutes for the home side to take the lead. Collins struggled to control a high ball and compounded his error with an awful back pass to Jussi Jaaskelainen. Pogrebnyak gratefull advanced on goal, and with the goalkeeper venturing out, guided it home with his left foot.
It was, in truth, one of the only action points of a sloppy first half. Pogrebnyak continued to be effective whilst Cole worked hard in his lone role for the visitors, but both were left slightly isolated through a lack of runners from midfield.
Quite whether it was due to the prolonged break after a postponed Boxing Day fixture or otherwise, Allardyce would have been less than impressed by his side's first-half display. There were mistakes and confusion in defence, and in midfield effort had led to little end result. A header from Winston Reid tipped over the bar by Adam Federici was the closest the Hammers came to equalising as half-time approached.
West Ham improved during the second half, but their final ball consistently let them down, and too many set pieces hit the first man, a fact that will frustrate their manager. It was Reading that had the first chance of the half, with Pogrebnyak firing low into the bottom corner, only to see an offside flag deny him, correctly so.
As the game wore on, an element of needle was introduced. With seven players booked in total, all too often individuals reacted to challenges, causing unnecessary headaches for referee Michael Oliver, who officiated the game admirably under considerable pressure from both sets of players.
Midway through the half and Reading again had the opportunity to increase their lead, with Jem Karacan hitting the underside of the bar from the edge of the area with Jaaskelainen beaten. Jimmy Kebe could only fire over from the rebound.
West ham applied all the pressure in the closing minutes as the home side seemed happy to sit on their valuable lead and should have taken a point but substitute Vaz Te missed a golden chance late on.
The game meandered to a close without any more chances amidst moments of timewasting and tension, and Reading held on for just their second victory of the season in the Premier League. They were not at their best, but were not forced to be by a West Ham side that have now won just one in eight. Sam Allardyce will be deeply disappointed in the way his side could not play with a fluidity often seen when playing at home.