Veljko Paunovic's side just about shaded things on Teesside, but failed to seriously test Marcus Bettinelli in the Middlesbrough goal, while Jonny Howson had an effort hacked off the line for the hosts.
Neil Warnock, who could not bring in a striker ahead of Friday's domestic transfer deadline, saw his side's attacking limitations exposed as they failed to score for the second time in their opening five league matches.
Chances were at a premium all afternoon, with both defences severely limiting the number of opportunities that were afforded to the opposition.
Reading goalkeeper Rafael was called into action in the 10th minute, tipping a deflected effort from Howson over the crossbar, but it was the midway point of the first half before his opposite number Bettinelli was threatened.
Even then, the Middlesbrough keeper was hardly extended as he got down to claim a weak header from Lucas Joao.
Bettinelli was asked a more serious question shortly before the half-hour mark, but he answered it adeptly as he claimed Michael Olise's effort after the Reading forward twisted and turned to create space in the box.
Yakou Meite shot over after turning away from Howson, before Reading's best chance of the first half came to nothing seven minutes before the interval. A neat short free-kick routine ended with Josh Laurent being teed up on the edge of the penalty area, but his side-footed effort sailed over the crossbar.
The first half ended with Paddy McNair also shooting over from the corner of the Reading 18-yard box, and with both sides remaining compact and well-organised, the second period proved every bit as closely fought and competitive as the first.
Reading's neat passing interplay caused an occasional problem for the Middlesbrough backline, and Ovie Ejaria went close shortly after the hour mark. Andy Rinomhota sent Ejaria driving towards Boro's centre-halves, and the former Liverpool trainee drilled in a fierce low effort that whistled just past the left-hand post.
Howson had an effort ruled out as Boro stepped up their attempts to force a breakthrough – the veteran midfielder was offside as he swept home following a lay-off from George Saville – and was left frustrated again late on as his close-range strike was blocked on the line.
Howson did well to fashion a shooting position after the ball came in from the right, but Reading centre-half Liam Moore did even better as he got himself in the way of the shot.