Pavel Pogrebnyak and Leonardo Ulloa were both sent off during 10 minutes of madness at the Madejski.
Reading and Brighton had to play the entire second half with 10 men after their strikers were ordered off by referee Graham Scott.
Pogrebnyak was first to go, collecting a second yellow card for a dive, and Ulloa followed for a high challenge just before half-time.
And a stalemate was the predictable outcome as both teams ploughed on for the rest of the match without their main frontmen – not that either had looked much like scoring with 11 players.
Royston Drenthe may be proof that Real Madrid do not always get it right when buying wingers, but the Dutchman did at least provide the occasional rare threat for Reading in the early stages.
The Royals’ big summer signing almost sent Adam Le Fondre through on goal with an overhead kick from inside his own half, curled in free-kick which was just about held by Tomasz Kuszczak – and managed to get booked for persistent fouling.
By then Brighton, after a sluggish start, had found some attacking intent and Andrew Crofts was inches wide with a header from David Lopez’s cross.
But referee Scott took centre stage in the 31st minute when he sent off Pogrebnyak.
The Russian, starting his first league game this season, had already picked up a soft booking for tripping Kazenga LuaLua when he tangled with Lopez and Keith Andrews on the corner of Brighton’s area.
Pogrebnyak was definitely being held, and had his heel clipped, but his theatrical tumble convinced Scott to produce a second yellow and off he trooped.
But 10 minutes later it was goodbye to Ulloa, who stupidly gave Scott the opportunity to level things up with a chin-high, karate-style challenge on Alex Pearce to earn a straight red card.
Brighton almost snatched the lead before half-time but Gordon Greer’s header was tipped over by Alex McCarthy.
Reading, minus Drenthe who was – probably wisely due to the card count – taken off at half-time, went on the attack at the start of the second half and Jem Karacan was twice frustrated by Kuszczak.
At the other end Lopez turned Karacan in the area but fluffed his shot and substitute Ashley Barnes’ volley was beaten out by McCarthy.
Barnes came closest to grabbing an unlikely winner 10 minutes from the end when he met Stephen Ward’s low cross only to be denied by a combination of McCarthy and the near post.