JORDAN Obita grabbed his first goal in more than three years to rescue a point for Reading at Portman Road.
The 23-year-old wing-back netted with a spectacular volley 12 minutes from time to earn his side a draw after Jaap Stam's men had twice been behind.
There was also a quality goal on debut for Jordon Mutch either side of a fine double from Tom Lawrence, who looked to have clinched victory for the hosts until Obita struck late on with the second goal of his Royals career and first since a 3-2 win at Nottingham Forest in November 2013.
While Royals were unable to make it four Championship wins in a row, the draw - their first in 19 games - keeps their unbeaten run going and maintains third place in the table, with a two-point lead over Leeds who play fifth-placed Huddersfield tomorrow.
Stam handed a debut to Mutch and left George Evans on the bench in one of two changes from the side that won at Birmingham City on Tuesday night.
The other saw Yann Kermorgant return up front, with Roy Bereens the man to miss out.
Stam also had plenty of options on the bench with January signings Lewis Grabban, Reece Oxford and Adrian Popa named among the substitutes.
Meanwhile, McCarthy made five changes to his Ipswich team including debuts for Toumani Diagouraga, Emyr Huws and Steven Taylor, while in-form Lawrence passed a fitness test to start for the hosts.
Lawrence was involved in the hosts' first chance four minutes in, feeding Joshua Emmanuel who was denied by Ali Al-Habsi at his near post.
Then Tyler Blackett got his timing spot-on to block an effort from Lawrence 12 minutes later.
Royals were struggling to make an impact and Ipswich went close again soon after when Jonas Knudsen missed the target with a back-post header from a slick breakaway.
McCarthy would have ben encouraged, but he was forced to bring off Cole Skuse in the 21st minute after the midfielder suffered an injury while tackling Mutch.
Reading threatened for the first time soon after, Swift failing to convert a difficult chance from a tight angle after superb work from Garath McCleary.
Stam's men then registered their first shot on target on the half-hour, John Swift's nod-down finding Kermorgant whose first-time effort from 20 yards tested Bartosz Bialkowski.
Lawrence blazed over from a long way out before Huws stung Al-Habsi's hands from 25 yards as McCarthy's side hit back.
They almost broke the deadlock seven minutes before the break, Knudsen racing into the Reading area only for Al-Habsi to make a stunning save.
Royals regrouped and enjoyed their best spell - only to concede a goal of all their own making.
Stam's men won their first corner, but Kelly's delivery was eventually picked up by David McGoldrick who sped up the middle before finding Lawrence who rifled the ball into the roof of the net via the underside of the bar.
Royals almost levelled straight from the restart, Kelly shooting narrowly over.
But they could also have been 2-0 down at half-time after Taylor sent a free header a shade wide at the back post from a flag-kick.
Stam freshened things up replacing Swift with Grabban at the interval - and they were level within seven minutes of the restart.
Mutch was instrumental in the build-up after sending Grabban clear.
The return cross from the ex-Bournemouth and Norwich striker was superb, the first touch from Mutch even better and the finish sublime, sending Bialkowski the wrong way from 16 yards.
The visitors almost doubled their lead three minutes later during an Ipswich wobble, Bialkowski diving full-stretch to parry a Danny Williams piledriver.
Ipswich, though, recovered and after McGoldrick had brought the best out of Al-Habsi, they went back in front on the hour thanks to Lawrence's second of the day.
The on-loan Leicester forward collected McGoldrick's clever pass before coolly slotting past Al-Habsi.
Royals pushed for an equaliser, McCleary's teasing cross causing havoc in the Ipswich box before Taylor frantically cleared up.
And it came in the 78th minute when an Ipswich clearance from McCleary's cross fell to Obita, who hammered it first-time volley into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Reading nearly snatched a third in the dying moments when Kermorgant hit one just wide, but they had to settle for a point.
Royals return to Madejski Stadium next Saturday to face ninth-placed Barnsley who drew 0-0 at home with Preston.