Bradford had the best of a high-tempo but low-quality affair but Phil Parkinson’s men could not quite summon the spirit which had swept them past Chelsea and Sunderland in the two previous rounds.
And though Reading, who were passengers for most of the second half, thought they had won it with just minutes remaining as Oliver Norwood’s free-kick rattled the post, Parkinson’s side held on for a well-deserved replay at the Madejski Stadium.
A winner would have sent Bradford into the semi-finals for the first time since they won the trophy in 1911 while the Royals were bidding to end their own 88-year wait but both sides will have to hang on to make history.
Bradford’s league form may have been inconsistent since seeing off Premier League Sunderland in the fifth round but Parkinson kept faith in his FA Cup heroes, naming the same starting line-up. Reading boss Steve Clarke freshened up his troops from the midweek draw at Bolton, with Stephen Kelly and Danny Williams replacing Chris Gunter and Garath McCleary respectively.
With a trip to Wembley on the line, both sides showed full commitment with challenges flying in all over the field in what was an all-action, but scrappy opening on Valley Parade’s well-publicised poor pitch.
It was certainly a style and pitch more suited to the League One side as Bradford looked to hit their front two of James Hanson and Jon Stead at every opportunity but though it nearly paid dividends when James Meredith drilled in a cross from the left for Hanson, the striker could not get enough power on his header to trouble Adam Federici.
Midway through the first half it was Reading’s turn to push forward as Danny Williams showed an excellent turn of pace to skip past James Meredith before his cross was deflected towards the near post, but keeper Ben Williams was alert to gather the ball cleanly.
Clarke’s side were having some joy down the right and Jamie Mackie burst clear before finding Pavel Pogrebnyak in the middle of the area, but, Williams beaten, the Russian’s shot thumped straight back off the post.
The home side were not to be outdone and they were inches from taking the lead in the 35th minute when Gary Liddle’s teasing cross evaded everyone but the post.
After the break it was Bradford who went straight on the attack through Hanson and his cross eventually ran through to the unmarked Filipe Morais at the far post, only for his effort to hit Jordan Obita.
The raucous home support were urging their side forward and they created another opportunity as Billy Clarke turned the ball into the path of Stead, only for his shot to be was well blocked by Michael Hector.
Stead was becoming more and more influential and he thought he had worked an opening in the 64th minute after brushing aside the challenge of Alex Pearce, Kelly instead on hand to make a vital intervention.
Reading were struggling to get out of their own half with Pogrebnyak becoming an isolated figure and he could only watch as Stead broke the off-side trap to cut back for Hanson on the edge of the six-yard area, the shot creeping inches wide.
The home side created another clear opening in the 75th minute as Morais whipped in an inviting ball from a free-kick, which Davies rose highest to meet, but his header flew just over.
There looked to be only one winner as Bradford continued to dominate but they survived a late scare as Norwood’s free-kick hit the woodwork, before substitute Yakubu failed to connect with the bobbling ball.
It was to be the final action of a frenetic afternoon at Valley Parade and while Bradford will rue their missed opportunities in the second half, a return to Wembley following their 2013 Capital One Cup final visit remains in reach.