Reading took the lead when Nathan Baker somehow sliced the ball into his own net when trying to clear, but Christian Benteke restored parity almost immediately when his deflected effort beat Stuart Taylor.
Gabriel Agbonlahor got what proved to be the winner just before half time when he hammered home a rebound after Barry Bannan had hit the post.
Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at what could prove to be a decisive day in the Premier League relegation battle.
On target 4
On target 7
Was the result fair?
Just about, yes. A draw would not have been an unfair result for either side, but if anyone deserved to win, it was Villa. They hit the woodwork twice and had a number of good chances, while Reading were mostly limited to efforts from outside the box. Both defences were poor throughout, and each of the goals had an element of luck about them but, on the balance of the whole game, the better team came away with all three points.
The home fans booed them off at half time and then again at full time, so they were clearly not happy at the performance. Reading were sloppy defensively and could have avoided both Villa goals had they taken a bit more care at the back, but they also created a fair number of chances going forward. There will be positives to take from the match, but there is no questioning that they are in a perilous position in the league after this defeat.
Aston Villa's performance
Had they lost this match, they would have had only themselves to blame. Most of Reading's chances came by the means of crosses into the box that Villa repeatedly failed to deal with. They were better going forward, with Benteke and Agbonlahor both providing regular threats, but their defending left an awful lot to be desired.
Sports Mole's man of the match
Christian Benteke: So often Villa's saviour this season, Benteke provided a valuable outlet for the visitors. He held the ball up well and his movement bamboozled the defence at times - including for his goal. Scoring so soon after going behind also helped his side massively, and his goal was every bit as important as Agbonlahor's.
This is the easiest pick. Nathan Baker's own goal isn't just the biggest gaffe of this game, it may well be the biggest of the season. The Villa defender was well-positioned on the line when the ball came towards him, but as he swung for it with his weaker right foot he completely missed it and diverted it into this own net with his left. It was one for the DVD collection, and he is lucky that Benteke spared his blushes immediately afterwards.
Jon Moss didn't have much to do this afternoon and wasn't faced with any major controversies. The biggest decision that had to be made by the officials was ruling out Noel Hunt's goal for offside, and the replays show that the linesman got that right, by a matter of inches.
Reading: Things just get worse for Reading - their next match comes away to runaway league leaders Manchester United.
Aston Villa: Villa have another huge relegation battle next Saturday as they welcome Queens Park Rangers to Villa Park.