The central defender scored an own goal in the 20th minute, before hauling down Adam Le Fondre in the penalty area to concede a penalty and get himself sent off in added time of the first-half.

Peter Whittingham converted the penalty and it was enough to condemn Nigel Adkins' side to their fourth successive away loss, despite a late Michael Hector effort giving them hope.

The Royals remain 14th, but could fall as low as 19th tomorrow if results go against them.

On a wet and windy night in Wales, it was another below-par performance from Reading, who rarely threatened going forward in a disappointing display.

It was a quiet opening period, before the first goal arrived in the 20th minute, courtesy of Pearce putting through his own net.

It was hotly debated by Chris Gunter, who was adamant Pearce had been fouled as the ball was delivered by Whittingham.

But James Linington waved away the appeals and Pearce could only divert the ball into his own net as he tussled with Ben Turner in the six-yard box.

Royals were again lacklustre in their play, and only a low drive from Jordan Obita tested David Marshall in the Cardiff goal in the first-half.

In truth it was a poor first-half throughout, but the hosts were more clinical in the final third and turned their rare attacks into chances to test Federici.

Anthony Pilkington and Craig Noone were full of direct running, and Stephen

Kelly struggled to handle the wingers as they both floated over to the left-hand side of the Cardiff attack.

One surging run from Noone saw him turn inside Kelly and deliver a dangerous cross that struck the outstretched hand of Pearce in the area, but the referee waved away the boisterous Cardiff appeals.

It was Cardiff in the ascendancy towards the end of the first-half, and Macheda fired over before Noone also sent a dipping effort over Federici's crossbar.

With three minutes of added time signalled by the fourth official, it looked like Royals had done enough to reach half-time whilst still in the game.

But that changed in the third minute of added time, when Le Fondre raced onto a long ball and turned Pearce inside the box.

With the ex-Royal bearing down on Federici, a tug of his shirt by Pearce was enough to send Le Fondre tumbling in the box.

The defender's day went from bad to worse when the referee brandished the red card, condemning Adkins' side to ten men for the remainder of the game.

Whittingham stepped up and confidently dispatched the penalty to the right-hand side, sending Federici the wrong way.

The second-half reflected the game being all but over, until Reading struck back late on.

Pilkington forced Federici into a diving save, whilst Brayford poked the ball wide when one-on-one as Cardiff searched for a third goal.

Le Fondre also came close to grabbing a goal against his former side , but his effort was just too high.

A rare Royals attack saw Murray win a free-kick on the edge of the box, but Norwood's curling attempt was poor.

With the game seemingly heading to a comfortable home win, Reading gave themselves a lifeline when Hector's low effort through a crowd of bodies slipped through Marshall's grasp.

But it wasn't enough and Reading failed to threaten again in a comfortable last 10 minutes for the hosts.

It is now just one point from 18 on the road for Adkins' side, who face a daunting trip to Carrow Road to play Norwich City next Saturday.

Reading: Adam Federici, Stephen Kelly, Alex Pearce, Michael Hector, Chris Gunter; Oliver Norwood; Danny Williams (Jake Taylor '72); Hal Robson-Kanu (Nick Blackman '84), Jordan Obita; Glenn Murray, Simon Cox (Gareth McCleary '45). Subs: Mikkel Andersen, Shaun Cummings, Jake Cooper, Aaron Tshibola.

Cardiff City: David Marshall; John Brayford, Sean Morrison, Matt Connolly (Fabio '74); Peter Whittingham, Aron Gunnarsson, Craig Noone (Mats Daehli '69), Anthony Pilkington; Adam Le Fondre, Federico Macheda (Kenwyne Jones '89). Subs: Simon Moore; Bruno Manga, Tom Adeyemi; Ravel Morrison.