Two first-half goals by Derby County were enough to seal the points for the hosts at Pride Park, as a spirited fight-back after the break fell just short for Reading.
Sone Aluko’s well-taken goal midway through the second period was well-merited and gave Reading hope of completing a come-back, after Duane Holmes and Jack Marriott had opened a two-goal lead. The Royals dominated after the interval but travelled back to Berkshire empty-handed.
Manager José Gomes made just a single change to the starting XI after last week’s win against Nottingham Forest; Lewis Baker was handed a first start, meaning a place on the bench for Omar Richards.
It also meant a change in some of the players' roles. Andy Rinomhota filled in at the right-back position, with Andy Yiadom switching to the opposite side. Former Royals midfielder George Evans was amongst the subs for the Rams.
Less than three minutes had passed when Derby turned their early impetus into the game’s first goal. A quick one-two allowed Harry Wilson to burst through the middle, and despite Holmes being well beyond the two centre-halves, he was judged to have been played onside by full-back Yiadom. Holmes' finish from a narrow angle was clinical.
It could have been even worse just moments later, when Tiago Ilori’s back-pass was short, allowing Jack Marriott to claim possession in the Reading area. Goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola rushed out to close down the angle and saved well.
Wilson struck a first-time effort wide and Marriott had a shot blocked by Royals captain Liam Moore. Battling against the tide, the Royals were having to dig in to prevent the scoreline worsening.
As the half wore on, Reading began to wrestle back the initiative and stem the tide. Building from the back, Reading won a couple of corners which John Swift put in with whip - both times saved well.
And then the leveller was just inches away; Mo Barrow raced down the right and cut inside, a low cross was guided narrowly past the far post by Swift as he arrived in the centre. The same combination that made Reading's first goal against Forest, but not the same outcome.
The home crowd were becoming edgier as time passed with Reading combining well through the middle of the pitch. It was just the final pass that was missing on a few occasions, meaning Kelle Roos was largely untroubled between the Derby sticks.
But the Rams grabbed their second before the interval, with a stroke of luck. The build-up was neat and Martyn Waghorn's strong hold-up play allowed him to square for Wilson outside the area, and his left-footed drive took a heavy deflection to wrong-foot Jaakkola and widen the margin.
In first-half stoppage-time, Yiadom and Barrow combined well down the left and the latter's teasing cross had Roos stranded, but no-one in a black shirt was arriving in time to tap in for the Royals.
Half-time: Derby County 2-0 Reading
Sone Aluko was introduced at the interval, replacing Baker for the first switch of the game. And the Royals were desperately unlucky to not get back within a goal as Barrow's low cross was inches away from both Jón Daði Böðvarsson and Ovie Ejaria in the six-yard box.
Then Barrow was found by Aluko in a central position and flashed a fierce effort narrowly over. Still trailing by two, but with their tails up.
Aluko, operating in a central area, nicked the ball away outside the Derby box and drew a free-kick within shooting range. Swift's effort dipped wildly but just cleared the crossbar.
And then Barrow again broke clear on the left and was a fraction away from finding Böðvarsson in the middle. The Icelander was visibly frustrated that another chance had gone begging as Reading's dominance in the first ten minutes of the half hadn't returned a goal.
Then a reminder of the threat the Rams posed on the break, as Waghorn tucked in on a counter-attack... but not before the assistant referee had flagged for offside.
Leandro Bacuna was the latest to come close for the Royals - he got the ball out of his feet and drilled from 20 yards, but the strike deflected marginally wide off the back of teammate Swift.
Midway through the half, the Royals' pressure told. Ejaria was strong in the tackle to turn over possession upfield - a decisive burst of pace and early ball found Aluko through on goal, and he squeezed the ball past Roos and into the corner. Game on!
The Royals were ratcheting up the pressure in seeking out a leveller; Yiadom's early ball for Garath McCleary, on as a sub, found the winger racing into space on the flank but Roos was off his line to early prevent him squaring for a tap-in.
Jaakkola had been a bystander for much of the second half but was alert on a cold afternoon to keep out Jayden Bogle when the youngster powered a shot at goal.
That effort for the Rams was a rare foray forward after the break for the hosts. And Reading kept pushing until the very last, but the final pass wasn't quite there. Derby just about plugged all the gaps in a crowded box as a late Royals onslaught in the four added minutes fell just short.
Full-time: Derby County 2-1 Reading
Derby County: Roos, Tomori, Keogh (c), Wilson (Evans 90), Mount, Waghorn, Marriott (Bennett 79), Holmes (Nugent 86), Bogle, Huddlestone, Malone.
Unused subs: Mitchell, Bird, Buchanan, Wilson.
Goals: Holmes (3), Wilson (40).
Yellow: Malone, Holmes.
Reading: Jaakkola, Yiadom, Ilori, Moore (c), Rinomhota, Bacuna, Ejaria, Baker (Aluko HT), Swift, Barrow (McCleary 73), Böðvarsson (Loader 63).
Unused subs: Walker, Gunter, Blackett, Richards.
Goal: Aluko (66).
Referee: Mr A Woolmer