Reading manager Brian McDermott admitted Middlesbrough's early goal was decisive in ending the Royals' unbeaten away record.
Barry Robson scored inside the first minute as Boro eased to a 3-1 home win over the Royals. Leroy Lita added a second goal against his former club and although Jimmy Kebe pulled one back, Boro were not to be denied and David Wheater's header sealed the points.
"We didn't do ourselves justice and we looked a little bit flat out there," said McDermott. "But that first goal coming as early as it did certainly didn't help.
"The goal galvanised their team and got their crowd going and it put a bit of spring in their step and it took us time to adjust.
"We had chances - Jimmy Kebe hit the post - and did well to pull one back just before the break and then we had a good spell early in the second half but we didn't make it count.
"But Middlesbrough play like a side that are going to be very close at the end of the season. They have a very real chance of being up there."