Sky Bet League One side Bradford had the best of a fractious affair but Phil Parkinson’s men could not quite summon the spirit which had swept them past Chelsea and Sunderland in the two previous rounds.
And despite the Bantams dominating for long periods Sky Bet Championship outfit Reading almost snatched it at the death when Oliver Norwood’s free-kick eluded everyone in the box and struck the base of Ben Williams’ right-hand upright.
Reading striker Pavel Pogrebnyak and Bradford’s Gary Liddle also hit the woodwork in the first period in a game big on intent but clearly suffering from the pressure of the momentous prize at stake for both clubs.
A winner would have sent Bradford into the semi-finals for the first time since they won the trophy in 1911 while the Royals were bidding to end their own 88-year wait.
The bustling tempo was set in the opening minute as Bradford midfielder Billy Knott barged over Jamie Mackie and moments later a Nathaniel Chalobah challenge left James Hanson stretched out on the turf.
If such a game was always bound to be short on quality the early tempo was breathtaking with both sides clearly keen to make a mark in front of two sets of raucous supporters in the lunchtime sunshine.
The urgency even extended to the sidelines where Parkinson reacted with fury to an Alex Pearce foul on Hanson which went unpunished by referee Neil Swarbrick who called the game back for an earlier foul throw.
Bradford had the first shot on target in the 12th minute but it was a simple save for Adam Federici after Hanson only half-connected with a deep cross from the left by James Meredith.
Perhaps mindful of their status as favourites in many people’s eyes given their heroics of previous rounds, it was the hosts who seemed to be feeling the pressure most as Steve Clarke’s men began to take a grip on proceedings.
Pogrebnyak missed a great chance to snatch the lead for the visitors in the 27th minute when he was put through by Mackie only to fire his low right-foot shot against the post.
But the home side came equally close nine minutes later when a half-clearance fell to Liddle whose cross from wide on the left eluded everybody in the box and struck the base of Federici’s right-hand post.
Keen to keep up his record of scoring in every round of this season’s competition, Jon Stead was close to connecting with another Meredith cross as the first half nudged to a rather gruelling conclusion.
Bradford looked a better team from the start of the second period, pinning the visitors back and coming close within seconds of the re-start when Filipe Morais got behind the Reading defence to reach a Hanlon cross only to scuff his effort from a tight angle.
Clarke skewed an effort wide after a neat one-two with Stead on the edge of the box, then Stead himself wriggled through a group of Reading defenders before Stephen Kelly denied him a shooting opportunity with a fine sliding tackle.
Reading were barely in the game as it ticked past the hour mark and they were lucky to stay on level terms in the 71st minute when Hanson fired just wide from point-blank range after a cross from Stead.
Bradford came close again four minutes later when the excellent Morais flung in another cross from wide on the right and found the head of defender Andrew Davies, who powered his shot just over Federici’s bar.
Then came Norwood’s late free-kick which sprang through a crowded box and sparked a mighty goalmouth scramble as the visitors missed their chance to snatch a place in the last four by a lick of paint.