The striker rose highest with 10 minutes remaining to power his fifth goal for the club and secure a much-needed three points in the basement battle at Villa Park.
Up until that point Reading had produced a hard working performance and looked on course for a point in a game void of any quality in front of Villa’s lowest home league gate – 28,692 – for six years.
Benteke and Andreas Weimann failed to take the hosts’ best opportunities while Adam Le Fondre should have scored for the Royals.
Villa started the game on the front foot, keeping hold of the ball without really penetrating the Reading backline.
They were very nearly punished when Mikele Leigertwood’s teasing cross from the right was deflected up into the air, but Le Fondre was unable to find the back of the net with his acrobatic overhead kick attempt.
The hosts were next to go close as Brett Holman’s daisy cutter of a cross was well controlled by Benteke, but his effort towards goal was tame, allowing Adam Federici to make an easy save.
Soon after Villa should have taken the lead as Benteke’s clever pull-back was smashed over the crossbar from Weimann.
Nathan Baker then headed over the crossbar from Barry Bannan’s corner and Benteke’s curler was easily held by the busy Federici as the sides went into the interval with the game finely balanced.
Following a scrappy opening to the second period the Royals should have broken the deadlock just before the hour mark as Le Fondre somehow managed to head over the bar from Nicky Shorey’s corner.
At the other end, Villa squandered another opportunity from a corner of their own as Ciaran Clark headed inches wide.
The hard working Jason Roberts then cut inside before his shot was cleared to safety by the right-boot of Brad Guzan.
Just as the game was heading for a dull goalless draw, Villa broke the deadlock with 10 minutes remaining.
And it was Benteke who found the target as he climbed above Sean Morrison to meet Ashley Westwood’s corner to send the ball into the far corner to seal the three points for Paul Lambert’s side.