Chelsea 4-2 ReadingChelsea 4 (Lampard 19, Cahill 69, Torres 80, Ivanovic 90)
Reading 2 (Pogrebnyak 25, Guthrie 29)
A brave and brilliant Royals performance was cruelly denied its rewards on Wednesday evening, as they were edged 4-2 by the European Champions.
The Stamford Bridge regulars could have been forgiven for predicting a routine win as Frank Lampard opened the scoring from the spot following Chris Gunter's foul on Eden Hazard, but it was to be nothing of the sort.
In an extraordinary spell of football for the remainder of the first half - Brian McDermott's men took the game to Chelsea, equalising as Garath McCleary's delightful cross was superbly powered home by Pavel Pogrebnyak.
Not content at that - Jobi McAnuff's driving run won a free-kick in a dangerous position, which Danny Guthrie powered in at Peter Cech - forcing the giant stopper into a rare error as he spilled into his own net.
Ultimately, however, a spirited second half fight back from Roberto Di Matteo's men sealed the win - as firstly Gary Cahill's shot crept past Federici, before a suspiciously offside Fernando Torres tapped home after a well rounded team move.
The cruelty of that debatable goal was almost matched in the dying seconds, as Federici dashed upfield to join the Royals attack for a late corner - only to see Eden Hazard rapidly begin a Blues counter attack - before squaring for Branislav Ivanovic to tap into an empty net.
It wasn't what Reading deserved - but their display will still have turned plenty of heads in the Barclays Premier League.
Reading: Federici, Gunter, Harte, Pearce, Gorkss (C), Karacan (Le Fondre 70), Leigertwood, Guthrie, McCleary (Robson-Kanu 86), McAnuff, Pogrebnyak (Hunt 77)
Subs not used: McCarthy, Cummings, Mariappa, Tabb, Robson-Kanu
Booked: Karacan (foul 58) Pogrebnyak (Persistant fouling)
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cole, Cahill, Terry (C), Mikel (Sturridge 68), Ramires (Oscar 56), Lampard, Hazard, Mata (Meireles 85), Torres
Subs not used: Turnbull, Essien, Romeu, Bertrand
Referee: Lee Mason
The atmosphere at Stamford Bridge was one of celebration from kick-off, and a chant of 'stand up for the Champions' was fittingly observed by both sets of supporters.
The opening half chance fell to the man of the moment, Eden Hazard, who looked suspiciously offside as he latched onto a well crafted Juan Mata through ball - before dragging wide of the post from a tight angle.
Indeed there was plenty of class on show from Di Matteo's men, as a fast break presented a chance to Ramires in the seventh minute - who saw his effort well saved by Adam Federici.
That wasn't to say that the visitors were overawed - with a counter attack of their own ending in Pavel Pogrebnyak smashing a left footed fizzer wide of the upright.
Five minutes later and it was the men in blue back in the ascendancy - as Fernando Torres twisted and turned in the box, though wasn't quite able to escape the attentions of the Royals back four as his shot deflected away from danger.
Unfortunately for McDermott's men - the class would step up a notch, as some more intricate play in the area - this time from Hazard, led to Gunter clipping the French Footballer of the Year to concede a penalty.
The outcome wasn't much in doubt as Frank Lampard stepped up to emphatically smash home the spot kick.
Faced with that setback, against a team full of the stars of world football - many sides would go into their shell, but not last year's npower Championship winners.
As the game ticked into the 25th minute, a neat move down the right ended in McCleary whipping in a cross worthy of the Champions League final - and Pogrebnyak headed home in a manner that would grace any footballing stage.
The side resplendent in yellow were growing in confidence, as captain McAnuff surged at the Chelsea backline to win a free-kick 25 yards from goal - and dream land beckoned.
Guthrie's dipping effort seemed to deceive Cech, but even so the giant stopper would have been devastated to see the ball bounce awkwardly off his palms and into the corner of the net. 2-1 to the Royals.
Reading fans, tongues firmly in cheek - proclaimed to Stamford Bridge that they were top of the league.
McAnuff was then involved again, surging down the left twice in quick succession - with his second foray resulting in an effort his straight at Cech's midriff.
The home side were not short of leaders, as John Terry made efforts to settle proceedings - looping a header over the bar from a Mata free-kick.
Hazard also rallied - crashing over from distance before the break.
Not willing to sit back on their lead however, Reading continued to show ambition - winning a duo of corners and showing no fear as the half drew to a close and even coming fractionally close to extending their lead as a set piece from Ian Harte missed the head of Alex Pearce by inches.
The danger from the Chelsea front line was ever present however, as Torres almost proved in first half stoppage time - heading just wide from 10 yards.
Branislav Ivanovic opened up the second half by blazing high over the bar from Torres' cutback, as the travelling fans prepared for 45 minutes that would leave them badly in need of a manicure.
Roberto Di Matteo introduced Olympic silver medalist Oscar into the fray five minutes before the hour, in place of fellow Brazilian Ramires.
He was in the action moments later - but his shot from range wasn't enough to test Federici, who saved low to his right.
The call for heroic defending was always going to be issued at some stage, and Pearce was the one to answer it first - with 66 minutes on the clock, as he through himself in front of a goalbound effort.
Unfortunately for the Royals the next effort could not be prevented from bulging the net, as Gary Cahill's wickedly dipping shot from 25 yards stung the palms of Federici, and nestled home to equal the scores.
With their tails up, the Blues went for the kill - as Mata spun a shot around the post from a similar spot.
Not wishing to respond negatively - Brian McDermott reacted by introducing a striker for a midfielder, as Karacan trotted off to be replaced by Le Fondre.
Mata again posed a threat as the scoreboard flicked to the 79th minute - dragging just off target with a bouncing effort.
However the home support wouldn't have long to wait, as a top class passing move was finished by a Torres tap in to grant Chelsea the lead once more.
It was harsh on the Royals - who on another day could have seen an offside flag raised to deny the Spaniard his moment in the spotlight.
Nevertheless the away side attempted to hit back straight away through McAnuff, but the skipper couldn't quite test Cech after a jinking run.
Substitute Hal Robson-Kanu's well measured cross almost presented Jobi with a rare headed opportunity in the dying stages, but Reading's number 11 couldn't quite send his effort goalwards from the back post.
The cruelty wasn't over however. In the fifth minute of added time Federici joined the Royals attack for a last ditch corner, but the resulting scramble saw Hazard break away - before unselfishly squaring for Ivanovic to tap home.
Hard to swallow - but plenty of positives to take forward.