They had to come from behind to secure the points though after they gifted the Berkshire side the lead after 32 minutes with a calamitous own goal from Nathan Baker as he sliced in Jobi McAnuff’s cross.
But, just a minute later, Christian Benteke levelled from close range before Gabby Agbonlahor scored the winning goal on the stroke of half-time with a rasping left-foot drive.
During the week Reading boss Brian McDermott called for his side to make a fast start and they threatened twice inside the first five minutes. Adam Le Fondre forced Brad Guzan to claw a header away after he peeled off his marker at the back post before delivering a cross that an unmarked Hal Robson-Kanu mis-controlled.
Villa full-back Matt Lowton was shown a yellow card for a late challenge on McAnuff, but for all Reading’s early promise they almost fell behind on 12 minutes when Benteke rattled the crossbar with a header.
Reading’s opener on 32 minutes will be consigned to the blooper reel as Baker was left red-faced by his bumbling generosity. There appeared little danger, despite Hope Akpan helping McAnuff’s low cross on, but defending close to his line Baker horribly rushed his clearance. It meant he completely missed the ball and watched on as it bounced off his standing leg and over the line.
Reading’s lead lasted barely two minutes though as they showed why they have conceded more goals than any other club in the top flight this term.
The industrious Andreas Weimann was given acres of space down the right but instead of marking Benteke the home defenders rushed to the goal-line. The Belgian astutely sat back for the pass and lashed in a shot that took a deflection off Stephen Kelly to ensure Stuart Taylor was beaten.
It got worse for the Royals, however, as they conceded in first-half injury time for the second successive game at home.
Again the goal looked preventable as first Kelly failed to properly clear following a patient build-up by Villa. Lowton headed the ball across the six-yard box and while Barry Bannan’s deft touch rebounded off the post Taylor could only help the loose ball to Agbonlahor to thump home.
Reading thought they were level 10 minutes after the re-start only for a marginal offside call to go against them. Noel Hunt poked home at close range but if he was not offside Le Fondre, who was just in front of him, appeared to have just strayed.
Reading kept pushing, with six of their past seven league goals having come after the 84th minute, but there was no late rally on this occasion as Robson-Kanu wasted the best of their late chances.
Victory was just Villa’s second in their past 12 league games and moved them three points clear of danger. Reading’s defeat – their second in succession at home against a relegation rival after they lost 3-0 to Wigan a fortnight ago – left them above last-placed QPR on goals scored only.