Goals from Ovie Ejaria, Yakou Meite and Lucas Joao were enough to cancel out Nakhi Wells' strike as Reading capped off a professional display with three points.
The Royals ripped up the form book and ended their barren run of five straight games without a victory, with Dean Holden's side flat and unable to move into the automatic promotion places.
Reading saw large spells of the ball in the opening exchanges but Bristol City grew into the game, as both teams looked to craft the first goalscoring opportunity of the encounter.
In the way of chances the Championship's early fixture threw up very little in the opening 25 minutes, however, the football didn't reflect that with both sides showing they were switched on, alert and worthy of their lofty positions at the top of the division.
Meite fired the first notable effort on target of the afternoon, following a fantastic driven run by Andy Rinomhota. The midfielder surged from inside his half before sliding in for Meite whose initial shot was too much for Daniel Bentley to handle but the keeper smothered and eventually cleared the danger.
Reading's had a handful of first-half chances, with the best of which coming just after the half-hour mark. Joao was picked out by Michael Olise but the frontman's route to goal was unable to breach the wall of red shirts in his way to goal.
Olise and Meite also linked together in the Robins final third but were again unsuccessful in their attempt at breaking the deadlock. Meite curled a ball towards the back post but nobody in a blue and white shirt could connect with the ball and arrow it goalwards.
On 36 minutes, Bentley was called into action and was alert to keep his side on level terms. The Robins stopper made a lovely acrobatic stop to deny Meite a delightful overhead kick effort from inside the area. Veljko Paunovic's men will feel aggrieved to go into the break on level terms after lengthy pressure on the Bristol City defensive line.
Meite's vigour in the final third for Reading continued after the interval but the French international was once again denied by a smart stop from Bentley.
Reading were eventually awarded for their dominance after 54 minutes, after some beautiful work from Ovie Ejaria. The midfielder shifted the ball onto his right and skipped away from two defenders, before unleashing the shot which was aided by a deflection and wrong- footed Bentley.
On the hour mark, Bristol City registered their first shot of the afternoon. Callum O'Dowda found himself in space and fired towards goal, however, it was easy to handle for Rafael Cabral.
The hosts had plenty of chances to double their advantage but were left frustrated. Olise's inviting delivery was met by Michael Morrison but the defender's glancing header trickled wide of the upright.
20-year-old Thomas Holmes was inches away from his first senior goal and could have celebrated that feat had it not been for a terrific Bentley save, as the stopper clawed a powerful header away from the top corner.
The Royals were made to rue their missed chances after being undone by a set-piece. Holden's Bristol City side could have no complaints after being on the back foot for the whole encounter and capitalised on Reading's defensive line switching off. Nahki Wells latched onto a loose ball inside the area and did well to apply the finish to fire the Robins on level terms.
Reading's response was swift and effective, with Meite stroking home a deserved goal both for himself and the hosts performance. Great credit has to be given to Olise whose vision to provide the goal was fantastic and Meite made no mistake to restore the Royals lead.
Just moments after delight, Meite's delight was stripped after a shocking miss from yards out. Omar Richards' shot from distance rattled the upright and bounced back for Meite who couldn't divert his header into the open net just yards in front.
In stoppage time Joao ensured there would be no late drama at the Madejski and rounded off a perfect Reading performance. The lively Meite showed energy and a burst of pace to break away from his man down the right flank and slide across for Joao who slotted home his 12th goal of the season in all competitions.