Manchester City lined up with some slight surprises in their team as they handed a debut to Dutch-Tunisian left-back Karim Rekik, played Sergio Aguero on the wing and positioned Yaya Toure in the hole. If it was meant to provide some fluidity and power to break down Reading's defence, it failed rather miserably as the Royals were able to keep the Blues at bay for most of the game.
Karim Rekik's debut almost began in disastrous circumstances as Joe Hart gave him a dreadful pass which Jimmy Kebe sprung onto, but City managed to scramble the ball away with Hart in no-mans land. The Citizens almost made amends for the error immediately as Sergio Aguero produced a flick to set Carlos Tevez free, but the striker fired a poor shot straight at Adam Federici in the Reading goal.
As the half wore on, City began to put Reading under more and more pressure, but a tame header from Gareth Barry and a scuffed effort from Carlos Tevez were all the hosts could muster as they ended up going in scoreless to the sound of booing from one section of the home crowd.
After the break, things were little different, with Reading improved if anything, and the Royals looked more likely to get the winner for most of the rest of the game. Alex Pearce had one good chance midway through the second half as he was left unmarked in the area from a corner, but he sent a poor header over the bar.
City did enjoy a good spell shortly afterwards, but still found no way through. Pablo Zabaleta sent in two crosses for Edin Dzeko - the first over his head and the second accurately delivered, but poorly finished by the Bosnian.
Thereafter, Reading took the offensive once again. Jay Tabb demanded a penalty after being checked by Karim Rekik in the area, although replays showed that his case was not the strongest. Just after, Alex Pearce had another chance from a corner, but couldn't direct his header on goal for a second time.
City then began hurling forwards desperately. Sergio Aguero found the side-netting late on and it appeared the day was lost, but with time almost up, Gareth Barry got on the end of David Silva's cross to send a header into the bottom corner. It was devastating for the visitors, not the least because Barry was clambering all over his marker and certainly could have seen the goal disallowed.
Manchester City will be relieved to have avoided embarrassment, and this was a desperately poor performance from the hosts which they were extremely fortunate to win. Roberto Mancini must bank on his side hitting their stride and going on a run of form fairly soon, as their crosstown rivals appear to have already begun such a streak. For Reading, there is only bitter disappointment, although if they play like they did today more often, they could make a remarkable escape. The Royals will now be bottom on Christmas day - only one team has ever escaped relegation from that position.