Reading tore apart West Ham as Alan Curbishley came no closer to dragging the Hammers out of the relegation zone.
Hunt celebrates his easy goal as Reading run riot
Brynjar Gunnarsson nodded in Nicky Shorey's free-kick for the opener and Stephen Hunt's header doubled the lead.
Anton Ferdinand headed an own goal to make it 3-0 inside 30 minutes before Kevin Doyle rifled home a fourth.
The one-way traffic continued after the break as Leroy Lita slotted in a fifth on 53 minutes before Doyle headed in Shorey's corner to complete the rout.
The way West Ham's back line capitulated, Curbishley could be looking for a wholesale defence in the January transfer window.
The flood gates opened on 12 minutes when Danny Gabbidon's over-enthusiastic hold on Doyle led to Reading's opener.
Shorey sailed the resulting free-kick high into the box, where Gunnarsson rose to nod past Rob Green for his first Premiership goal.
Just three minutes later, Hunt was unfathomably allowed to find enough space to comfortably head home Steve Sidwell's cross.
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Curbishley stood grimacing on the sidelines as West Ham continued to let Reading run past them with Glen Little and Hunt mercilessly weaving through the defence.
More bad luck was to follow when Hammers midfielder Lee Bowyer left the field after 18 minutes with a dislocated shoulder and was replaced by Shaun Newton, back after a seven-month drugs ban.
Ferdinand soon added to the misery when he bundled in another Shorey free-kick to hand Reading a 3-0 lead after half an hour.
West Ham's inability to deal with set-pieces was coupled with a sense of bemusement, shared by the shell-shocked away fans.
And, unbelievable as it was, Reading added a fourth when a brilliant run through the middle from Shorey set free James Harper, who knocked the ball to Doyle to slot home.
Curbishley has now lost three straight matches since taking over
West Ham had offered next to nothing upfront in the first 45 minutes and a reshuffle saw Marlon Harewood replaced by defender Jonathan Spector at half-time, leaving Bobby Zamora to chase down the four-goal deficit as a lone striker.
But after a sedate start to the half, it was Reading who conjured another goal seemingly out of nothing.
Sidwell was again on hand to provide the cross into the box to Lita, who sidefooted the ball under Green for Reading's fifth on the 53rd minute.
Lita nearly added a second when he met substitute John Oster's cross, only for Green to clear any danger and he got down well again to smartly save Doyle's thudding attempt.
West Ham's attacks were very tentative and what breakthroughs Newton or Nigel Reo-Coker could muster petered out into offside decisions for Yossi Benayoun and Ferdinand.
While the Hammers could do no right, Reading could do no wrong and, as the visiting fans poured out of the ground, Doyle nodded in Shorey's corner to make it six for the Royals.
Zamora came as close to scoring as he got all match in the dying minutes when his piledriver skimmed over the bar.
West Ham owner Eggert Magnusson, watching stoney-faced, will wonder how deep he must dive into his coffers to pull his disorientated side out of the drop-zone.
Reading boss Steve Coppell:
"I knew it was a real test physically and that's why the performance was surprising as it has been so demanding for us recently.
"I didn't think the players would go to the well again or have the legs for it.
"But once we scored the first goal it was our best spell of football since I've been here. They were creative and wanted to be on the front foot."
West Ham manager Alan Curbishley:
"This hasn't just happened and the players have to realise a couple of things very quickly.
"They have not scored a lot of goals and it is a confidence thing. But how do you get it back? By winning games.
"We couldn't live with Reading but we have to rally around now and get three-pointers. We need to pick up points to give ourselves a chance."
Reading: Hahnemann, Gunnarsson, Ingimarsson, Sonko (Bikey 54),
Shorey, Little (Oster 54), Sidwell, Harper (Ki-Hyeon 71), Hunt,
Subs Not Used: Federici, Long.
Goals: Gunnarsson 12, Hunt 15, Ferdinand 30 og, Doyle 36,
Lita 53, Doyle 78.
West Ham: Green, Dailly, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky,
Bowyer (Newton 19), Reo-Coker, Mullins, Benayoun (Cole 78),
Harewood (Spector 46), Zamora.
Subs Not Used: Carroll, Tevez.
Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).