Joao and Joe Rafferty tangled in the area but the Reading striker could not convert the resulting spotkick.
Alex Neil had handed home debuts to Danish keeper Daniel Iversen, Ben Whiteman and Jayson Molumby and the home side certainly started the brightest, captain Alan Browne's overlapping runs from right back a key feature of their play.
Scott Sinclair struck a good long-range effort that bounced in front of Rafael Cabral and he turned it round for a corner.
Then John Swift had a long-range effort of his own for Reading from a 30-yard free-kick, which debutant goalkeeper Iversen parried.
The Royals began to grow into the game mainly due to sloppy free-kicks conceded by Preston, with Ryan Ledson guilty more often than not.
One of those led to another Swift free-kick, this time fired into the side-netting.
Sone Aluko was afforded a rare opportunity from a Royals free-kick but it was to be the last one he took after ballooning the ball into the empty stand.
For all the Reading pressure it was Preston who nearly took the lead before the break.
Quick feet by Emil Riis Jakobsen saw him get an unlikely shot off that Rafael Cabral did well to get a hand on, with Browne unable to produce a finish on the follow-up.
Reading started brighter after the break. Iversen was forced into another great save at his near post when Joao laid the ball off to Ovie Ejaria who provided the low shot.
Tom McIntyre landed the ball on the roof of the net from the corner.
Those two good chances were followed by Iversen tipping over a wicked strike by Aluko.
North End were struggling to assert any dominance on the game. Passes were going astray, and Reading's organisation was good to set up a frustrating afternoon at Deepdale.
And Reading, all in red, were threatening at set pieces. After Tom Holmes won a corner, a well-worked move ended with Iversen saving from McIntyre's thigh. The linesman's flag had gone up but Iversen's save was still top class.
Lone Royals striker Joao was beginning to thrive, holding the ball up well and bringing team-mates into the game, and it was no surprise that he had a major hand in the biggest moment of the game.
The referee took an age to point to the spot after Joao and Rafferty tumbled in the area, with the home side vocal in their protests at the decision.
But Joao failed to cash in, missing the target from the spot as both teams had to settle for a point.