Gareth Barry appeared to be leaning on Nicky Shorey to aid his ability to head home the 92nd-minute winner, while Jay Tabb had a penalty appeal turned down in the second half
Reading manager Brian McDermott has expressed his anger at Mike Dean’s decision to allow Manchester City’s stoppage-time winner to stand.
Gareth Barry appeared to use Royals defender Nicky Shorey as leverage to head home for the hosts in the 92nd minute, with the goal deemed legal by the match officials.
The hosts enjoyed the majority of possession and tested goalkeeper Adam Federici on 10 occasions with 17 attempts on goal in a valiant defensive display from the relegation strugglers, but McDermott branded the winner as "just plain wrong".
"It's a massive error from the referee," he told BBC Sport. "It's an absolute joke. The decision killed us.
ROYALS PULL OFF GREAT ESCAPE?
Reading are 9/2 with Paddy Power to avoid relegation this season
"I spoke to the referee and he said Barry hung in the air, you can hang in the air all day if you're on someone's back. That decision has got to be given."
Reading also had strong appeals for a penalty turned down following a second-half challenge on Jay Tabb by 18-year-old debutant Karim Rekik, only for Dean to wave play on.
"It was a certain penalty," McDermott insisted. "I've seen it back and he's knocked him out of the way. He didn't look at the ball and he didn't play the ball - it's a penalty.
"Nobody will care about it because it's Reading. We're a small club in this division, people outside will move on very quickly, but we care."
Reading will now spend Christmas Day bottom of the Premier League in the knowledge that the 20th-place side on December 25 have avoid relegation just once in 20 seasons.