It needed late goals from Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanovic to seal victory and make it two wins out of two after Chelsea overcame a first-half wobble that gave Reading a lead at the interval.
As at Wigan, the football at times oozed promise for the season to come with Eden Hazard again impressing. It was another foul on the Belgian that allowed Frank Lampard to give his side an early lead from the penalty spot as Chelsea dominated, but two goals in four minutes from the newly promoted side, the second helped in by a Petr Cech error, knocked Roberto Di Matteo’s side of its stride.
The manager made some positive changes in the second half and it was another England player, Gary Cahill, who put his name on the scoresheet to level the game as time began to run short.
In the end it was two tap-ins that decided the day, the first after a short-passing move, the second after a counter-attack.
Ramires had recovered from the illness that kept him out at Wigan so Ryan Bertrand made way with Juan Mata moving to the left. Eden Hazard again played in a more central role. David Luiz had a knee injury so Gary Cahill came in.
Reading left out weekend goalscorer Adam Le Fronde and played Pavel Pogrebnyak on his own up front with Danny Guthrie in behind. Jem Karacan and Gareth McClearly came into midfield.
It was Eden Hazard rather than Branislav Ivanovic who had a chance to score inside two minutes on this occasion (although the Serbian had attacked even earlier in this game) but played through by a well-weighted Mata pass, the new signing dragged a left-foot shot wide of the right-hand post.
A sharp-looking Chelsea continued to find ways through the middle of the Reading team and when Ramires raced ahead onto an Ivanovic ball, he opted to cut inside centre-back Kaspers Gorkss which meant a left-foot shot from the Brazilian. That was saved.
Reading couldn’t get the ball. On 12 minutes there was the first flash from Torres, nutmegging Karakan to find a way into the area but as he was poised to shoot, Gorkss managed a sliding block.
On 16 minutes Hazard won his second penalty in a Chelsea shirt, this time teasing Chris Gunter with close control until the right-back lunged in. There were no complaints when the whistle blew. Lampard drilled the ball into the bottom left-hand corner for his 188th Chelsea goal.
Pavel Pogrebnyak may have been scoring just his first for his new club six minutes later but it was the goal of the game. McCleary was allowed to cross from the Reading right and the tall Russian guided a header from distance over the top of Cech who had no chance, unlike four minutes later when the newly-promoted visitors took the lead.
Although our keeper got his body well behind Guthrie’s low free-kick, he failed to take the energy out of the ball and it bounced off him and in. From a totally dominant position, the Blues were 2-1 behind and suddenly character was as important as the crisp passing of the opening minutes. Mikel had to dispossess a Reading attack inside the Chelsea area as the Blues were stretched again.
Terry headed a Mata free-kick over as the home side tried to wrestle the initiative back and Mikel did well to attack a tight space down the flank and pick out Hazard, whose shot from distance was off-target. But Reading had renewed belief and Cahill cleared well as Pogrebnyak threatened to get on the end of another cross. Pearce was worryingly close to heading a free-kick into Cech’s net just before half time.
In stoppage time, Hazard floated a cross towards Torres who though well-marked reached it but headed disappointingly wide.
Before two minutes were played Ivanovic speared a first-time shot over after Hazard and Torres ran at the Reading rearguard, and there the attempts on goal ended for the next 10 minutes although Chelsea were monopolising possession once more.
Oscar came on for Ramires with 56 minutes gone, the first change of the game, followed closely by the first booking which went to Reading midfielder Karacan for chopping Mata in the centre-circle.
Oscar, playing the centre with Hazard now left and Mata right, drilled in a shot but it was tame.
On 66 minutes, the new Brazilian and Hazard, who continued to draw fouls and looked the man-most-likely, combined through the centre. Torres took possession wide and when his cross was cleared, it fell to Mata to shoot but there was a Reading block.
Mikel was sacrificed for Sturridge with a quarter of the game to play, the England striker playing wide on the right, but the equaliser came from a defender. Cahill spotted a space opening in front of him and fairly demanded the ball.
Taking aim, his shot was low, hard and swerving but Federici should still have made a more convincing effort at keeping it out. The Reading keeper has not started this Premier League campaign at all well following a howler on Saturday.
Mata and Sturridge both scooped shots over as the Blues searched for a winner and Mata then shot low but wide.
There were 10 minutes remaining when the pressure finally told. Mata was this time at the fulcrum of the attack, spreading his pass out to Cole who as Torres held his run in an attempt to stay level with the ball, centred low into the six-yard box where our no.9 tapped it home. His had been a patchy second-half performance, but his league scoring was underway for the season.
Reading tried valiantly to rescue a point in the closing stages and with seconds left had a free-kick deflected just wide. Goalkeeper Federici came up for it but as Chelsea won the ball, we found the right man in Hazard to carry it the length of the pitch and give Ivanovic the chance for his second goal of the season.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Cole; Mikel (Sturridge 67), Lampard; Ramires (Oscar 57), Hazard, Mata (Meireles 84); Torres.
Unused subs Turnbull, Bertrand, Essien, Romeu.
Scorers Lampard pen 18,Cahill 68, Torres 80, Ivanovic 90+5.
Reading (4-4-1-1): Federici; Gunter, Pearce, Gorkss, Harte; McCleary (Robson-Kanu 85), Karacan (Le Fondre 71), Leigertwood, McAnuff (c); Guthrie; Pogrebnyak (Hunt 77).
Unused subs Tabb, Mariappa, McCarthy, Cummings.
Scorers Pogrebnyak 24, Guthrie 28.
Booked Karacan 57, Pogrebnyak 64.
Referee Lee Mason
See the game from midnight on Chelsea TV.