A set piece undid the Royals, as the Villans have their Belgian international to thank after his goal moves them out of the relegation zone.
In a game full of endeavor but bereft of real quality, it was an Aston Villa set piece that ultimately consigned the Royals to at least another few days in the relegation zone, as Benteke powered home from a Kieran Westwood corner for a Villa side that played without a healthy Darren Bent included in the squad.
It was just nine minutes before the first clear-cut chance fell the away side's way with a Jobi McAnuff cross producing a Hal Robson-Kanu toepoke that forced Brad Guzan into an excellent point-blank save en route to his second straight clean sheet.
An even better chance fell Benteke's way 10 minutes later, as a Jay Tabb cross found him in the area, only for the Belgian's sidefooted effort to be saved with aplomb by Adam Federici. It was Benteke's turn to play provider next as he squared a cross to Andreas Weimann who, six yards out, could only blaze way over with the strike.
Half-chances continued to fall both sides' way in the second half, with Brett Holman first firing wide for the home side, before both Adam Le Fondre and Ciaran Clark failed to capitalize from free headers for their respective sides.
The end-to-end game continued as Guzan produced another decent save to deny a Jason Roberts effort with 65 minutes gone.
Both sides continued to battle without much reward, and it was the 80th minute before the stalemate was finally broken as, following a Westwood corner, Benteke powerfully rose above Sean Morrison and thumped his header emphatically home from eight yards out.
Reading was unable to mount a comeback of any substance, with the only clear cut chance falling to substitute Noel Hunt, who could only head into Guzan's grateful arms.