Both teams provided more entertaining fare after a poor first half but neither could break the deadlock and Bolton needed some late heroics from goalkeeper Andy Lonergan to take a share of the points.
Bolton have enjoyed something of a revival since Neil Lennon replaced Dougie Freedman in October, winning five of his first eight games in charge and rising from last place to 18th.
In contrast, Reading’s form has been wildly inconsistent. Their 2-1 win at Norwich last weekend, thanks to a brace of goals from defender Jake Cooper, was only their third victory in 12 league outings.
Bolton were unable to use 36-year-old former Chelsea and Barcelona striker Eidur Gudjohnsen, who has joined the club for a second spell, as his international clearance did not come through in time.
But they began brightly against Reading’s stifling five-strong midfield, with Max Clayton flashing a low centre across the face of the home goal. However, no team-mate was on hand to provide the vital touch.
Reading responded quickly from a Jordan Obita corner on the right. Michael Hector nodded it on but Glenn Murray was unable to get a clean connection at the far post and headed tamely wide.
In a scrappy first half, neither side offered much imagination. Obita should have done better when latching on to a Garath McCleary cross but showed poor control and the chance went begging.
Bolton’s early promise had faded and Reading tried to up the tempo. McCleary took too long over a shot from outside the area, which was blocked, and a 20-yard Oliver Norwood free-kick flew harmlessly over.
Just before half time, an Obita corner ricocheted among a mass of bodies until landing at Murray’s feet, but his close-range effort struck McCleary and rebounded to safety.
Murray thought he had enjoyed better fortune soon after half-time, when he netted from Cooper’s nod down, but he was ruled offside.
Bolton retaliated, with Tim Ream’s close-range header forcing a good save from home goalkeeper Adam Federici, before Reading launched a fierce assault.
In the space of only a few minutes, centre back Hector missed three good chances – nodding over an Obita corner, slicing a shot wide and then being denied by Lonergan’s agile save from his firm header.
With the game opening up, at last, Bolton also counter-attacked swiftly. Darren Pratley went close with a powerful cross-shot and Ream missed the target when unguarded at the far post.
But Bolton were again indebted to Lonergan near the end when he made a stunning one-handed save to keep out a stinging 25-yard attempt by Danny Williams.