The Blues, held to a draw by third-tier Brentford in the FA Cup, had to wait until first-half stoppage-time before taking the lead at the Madejski Stadium, with a neat pass from Fernando Torres setting up his fellow Spaniard Juan Mata.
Frank Lampard, repeatedly linked with a move away from Chelsea despite impressing yet again this term, made it 2-0 in the 66th minute when he rose above the Royals’ defence to head in a corner.
But Le Fondre increased the pressure on Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez with two well-struck goals in the final three minutes.
Meanwhile a dejected Benitez added: “The atmosphere was not good in the dressing room. It is very difficult to take.”
Rooney saves United
Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney’s double helped Manchester United restore their seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League as they came from behind to beat Southampton 2-1 at Old Trafford.
Southampton took a shock third minute lead but Rooney equalised for United in five minutes. The England striker made it 2-1 in the 27th minute.
Gunners, Reds draw
Arsenal, like Reading, also came from 2-0 behind at home to Liverpool to force a 2-2 draw that did little for the top four ambitions of either club.
Defensive mistakes by the Gunners led to Liverpool goals for Luis Suarez and Jordan Henderson.
But within a few minutes of Henderson’s goal, Arsenal were level courtesy Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott.