Reading's nightmarish away form continued as Aston Villa battled to a third successive Premier League win.
Villa celebrate John Carew's first-half strike
Villa dominated set-pieces with the Reading defence unable to cope with the accuracy of Ashley Young's crosses.
John Carew glanced in an inswinging free-kick midway through the first half before Martin Lauren rose to head home a corner just after the break.
Carew scored again late on when Gabriel Agbonlahor squared to him before James Harper slotted a consolation.
It was a win very much in character for Martin O'Neill's men, who have scored more goals from set-pieces than any other side in the top flight.
Reading created more chances throughout the 90 minutes but were denied by both the profligacy of their strike-force and the reactions of Villa keeper Scott Carson.
Kevin Doyle wasted a glorious chance to give the visitors the lead before Carew's opener, spinning away from Laursen to go clear on goal only to balloon his shot way over the bar as Carson advanced.
Villa took immediate advantage as Carew rose unchallenged five yards out to head past the helpless Marcus Hahnemann.
It was the 30th goal Reading have conceded away from home this season, although replays showed that the Norwegian striker may have been marginally offside when his team-mate Young delivered the ball.
Dave Kitson, in his 100th league start for Reading, dragged his shot wide when well placed on the left before Doyle blazed a chance from outside the box high into the stand.
With Gabriel Agbonlahor causing problems down the Reading right, Villa won a series of corners - and Laursen out-jumped Kitson to head home Villa's second just minutes into the second half.
Reading rallied and almost scored when Kitson's flicked header was palmed away by Carson, before Carew turned smartly at the other end and fired in a shot which Hahnemann tipped over.
Carew missed another good chance after cutting in from the right while Laursen went close with a towering header from yet another Young corner.
The striker made amends just before the end when Agbonlahor ran on to Young's through-ball before squaring across the face of goal to set up the easiest of finishes.
James Harper's late strike - slotting home under the advancing Carson - did little to lift the dark mood of Royals manager Steve Coppell.
Villa manager Martin O'Neill on Ashley Young:
"He has taken things by storm. He has been fantastic. He also works hard. The way in which he tracks back is brilliant.
"He can go 60 yards at pace, beat players and has the ability to deliver from the open play of free-kicks."
Reading manager Steve Coppell:
"It looks to me like John Carew was offside for their first. At the point of delivery he looked beyond the defensive line.
"The second one came off Ashley Young for a non-corner. We don't want to moan to the world about it, but it just wasn't our day on those decisions."
Aston Villa: Carson, Gardner, Laursen, Davies, Bouma, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Barry, Young (Maloney 90), Carew (Salifou 90), Agbonlahor (Harewood 90).
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Knight.
Goals: Carew 22, Laursen 55, Carew 88.
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Gunnarsson, Ingimarsson, Shorey, De la Cruz (Convey 73), Harper, Cisse, Hunt, Kitson (Lita 76), Doyle (Long 89).
Subs Not Used: Federici, Pearce.
Booked: De la Cruz, Hahnemann.
Goals: Harper 90.
Ref: Uriah Rennie (S Yorkshire).
BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Aston Villa's John Carew 8.63 (on 90 minutes).
Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.