barnsley were beaten easily by promotion chasing Reading on a miserable day at Oakwell.
Second half goals by Jobi McAnuff, two from Jem Karacan and a late strike by the experienced Jason Roberts emphasised the gulf in class between the teams.
There was a scare inside the opening two minutes for the hosts.
Reading’s veteran front-man Roberts threaded a superbly-weighted pass into Hunt, and as he charged in towards goal, Steele himself raced out to meet the danger and saved well with his feet.
At the other end McNulty tried to play youngster Rose in, but his pass was a little too strong for the Reds’ teenager.
Rose had made an impressive start and was really putting himself about, but he was stopped in his tracks by a cruse 10th minute challenge by Karacan when a high foot could have caused a lot more damage than it actually did.
The quick-thinking Rose then created a chance of his own out of absolutely nothing.
Taking a long pass from McNulty, he chested the ball down neatly before turning and firing in a half-volley from all of 35 yards that dropped only a couple of feet wide with Federici stranded.
It had been an encouraging start from the Reds, and in the 15th minute they almost broke the deadlock when Nouble stopped to head Wiseman’s low cross inches wide of the far post with Federici again nowhere to be seen.
However, the in-form Royals are always dangerous going forward and McAnuff showed bags of quality as he skipped towards the heart of the defence before curling a shot a whisker past Steele’s far post.
The hosts sniffed a chance when Davies was tripped right on the edge of the Reading box, but the leading scorer fluffed it when he curled the free-kick way over the crossbar, much to Federici’s relief.
Kebe almost tested Steele with a looping header from McAnuff’s inswinging cross, then Roberts almost pounced the opener in the 34th minute.
Eight minutes before the break Steele had to be at his brilliant best to keep Reading out. This time Leigertwood took aim from fully 30 yards and with the ball arrowing towards the top corner, Steele dived through the air to produce a breath-taking one-handed save.
Leigertwood screwed a shot wide from much closer in, but the Reds held after Reading has totally bossed the quarter-of-an-hour leading up to the interval.
It didn’t take long after the restart for Reading to all but sink the Reds as they bagged two well-deserved goals inside the opening four minutes.
Firstly skipper MCANUFF pounced as he comfortably beat Steele from 15 yards after latching on to Roberts’ smart pass.
Two minutes later the lead was doubled when KARACAN smashed in from close range after Harte’s cross from the left wasn’t cleared by a hesitant Reds back line.
The Reds’ dreadful second half went from bad to worse in the 65th minute. Already two down and posing no threat going forward whatsoever, the Royals went three clear with a belting goal as KARACAN took a short pass from Hunt before driving home a peach of a shot into the top corner from 25 yards.
Davies offered some respite as he controlled well before shooting narrowly wide, but with 20 minutes remaining the game was already well and truly up as Reading looked primed to score even more.
With six minutes to go Nouble smashed in a free-kick which fizzed only just over the crossbar, but by this time many Reds fans had already left Oakwell wondering whether a late, unexpected battle against relegation may be on the cards in the final two months of the season.
ROBERTS completed a miserable afternoon for the hosts in the first minute of stoppage-time as he turned past Foster before slotting home to wrap up a 4-0 away victory.
BARNSLEY: Steele, Wiseman, McNulty, Foster, Collins, Rose, Doyle, Done, Smith, Nouble, Davies. Subs: Lidakevicius, Dawson, Cotterill, Gray, Stones.
READING: Federici, Mullins, Pearce, Gorkss, Harte, Kebe, Leigertwood, Karacan, Hunt, McAnuff, Roberts. Subs: Andersen, Le Fondre, Tabb, Robson-Kanu, Church.
Referee: Darren Sheldrake (Surrey).