Raheem Sterling scored his first Liverpool goal to hand Brendan Rodgers a long-awaited opening league victory at Anfield.
Sterling, 17, delivered a virtuoso display as Liverpool recorded only their third home league win of 2012 to move into 11th place in the Premier League table.
In scoring the game's decisive goal, Sterling became the second youngest Liverpool player to find the net in the Premier League, behind former England striker Michael Owen. He left the field to a standing ovation with five minutes remaining.
'Excellent' Liverpool delight Rodgers
But Rodgers' side should have won far more comfortably, spurning a host of chances during a game they totally dominated.
There was a clear feeling of unease among the home support as the game wore on, with Liverpool fans scarred by previous failures to convert possession into points.
On this occasion they stood firm, but a worrying lack of ruthlessness in front of goal could have cost them against more experienced sides.
Coming into this game Arsenal had won as many Premier League matches at Anfield this calendar year as the Reds and Rodgers, appointed at the end of May, was still searching for that elusive first home victory of his reign.
Sterling delivered a commanding performance. His attacking play was rapier sharp, his finishing ruthless and his interplay with Luis Suarez and willingness to take up more central positions gave Liverpool a cutting edge they too often lacked.
Jonathan PearceBBC Match of the Day commentator
"Liverpool's lack of cutting edge was exposed again. Raheem Sterling grabbed their winner but they created a number of other chances but couldn't score again. Reading had chances themselves in the second half and might have felt they might have nicked a point."
The winger's combinations with Glen Johnson down the left flank led to a series of chances for the England full-back, none of which he could convert, and Sterling also surged beyond defenders to carve out chances for Nuri Sahin and Suarez before snatching his goal.
A header ran to Suarez near the halfway line and the Uruguayan striker's neat flick sent Sterling scampering clear. Two touches later the ball was in the back of the net as the England Under-21 international fired a fierce shot across goalkeeper Alex McCarthy.
Liverpool's dominance continued into the second half but the longer the score remained at 1-0 the more Reading grew in confidence and Brad Jones - deputising for Pepe Reina as the Spaniard missed his first league game through injury for more than six years - twice denied the visitors as nerves built at Anfield.
First Garath McCleary broke clear and tested the Liverpool reserve goalkeeper with a low shot, before Jobi McAnuff saw his curling shot turned away.
Reading will be OK - McDermott
However, the home side continued to dictate and Suarez, battered and bruised from a first half in which referee Rodger East did little to protect him from a number of robust Reading challenges, saw a low shot scrambled to safety by keeper Alex McCarthy before turning Sterling's crossed high over the bar.
Chances came and went for substitute Jonjo Shelvey, Martin Skrtel and Johnson, while Steven Gerrard also went close.
Reading threw on Jason Roberts in an attempt to snatch a point and Liverpool survived a series of nervy moments as Adam Le Fondre went close and Roberts fought for every ball.
Such was the tension, the final whistle was greeted with an overwhelming sense of relief in the home dugout and among the home support.
Unfair challenge on Shaun Cummings by Glen Johnson results in a free kick. Nicky Shorey delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from right wing, Brad Jones makes a save.
Sanchez Jose Enrique produces a cross, save by Alex McCarthy.
90:00 +0:26 Booking
Booking Adrian Mariappa receives a yellow card.
Luis Suarez fouled by Adrian Mariappa, the ref awards a free kick. Steven Gerrard restarts play with the free kick.
Garath McCleary produces a cross.
Unfair challenge on Shaun Cummings by Joe Allen results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Alex McCarthy.
Corner taken short by Jonjo Shelvey.
Martin Skrtel concedes a free kick for a foul on Jason Roberts. Nicky Shorey has a direct shot on goal from the free kick, save made by Brad Jones.
Martin Skrtel challenges Jason Roberts unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick crossed left-footed by Nicky Shorey, save by Brad Jones.
Shaun Cummings takes the direct free kick.
Substitution Jordan Henderson is brought on as a substitute for Raheem Sterling.
Joe Allen challenges Jimmy Kebe unfairly and gives away a free kick.
Sanchez Jose Enrique produces a cross, save by Alex McCarthy.
Substitution Jason Roberts joins the action as a substitute, replacing Danny Guthrie.
Effort from the edge of the box by Garath McCleary goes wide of the left-hand upright.
Danny Guthrie sends in a cross, Martin Skrtel manages to make a clearance.
Effort from 20 yards by Garath McCleary. Blocked by Glen Johnson.
Sanchez Jose Enrique crosses the ball, save made by Alex McCarthy.
Effort from the edge of the box by Luis Suarez goes wide of the left-hand post.
Effort on goal by Luis Suarez from just inside the penalty area goes harmlessly over the target.
Substitution Sanchez Jose Enrique on for Jesus Fernandez Saez.
Substitution Adam Le Fondre comes on in place of Pavel Pogrebnyak.
A cross is delivered by Mikele Leigertwood.
Inswinging corner taken by Danny Guthrie from the left by-line, save by Brad Jones.
Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Nicky Shorey from the left by-line, Daniel Agger makes a clearance.
Glen Johnson takes a shot. Alex McCarthy makes a save. Corner taken by Steven Gerrard from the left by-line, clearance made by Kaspars Gorkss.
Unfair challenge on Raheem Sterling by Shaun Cummings results in a free kick. Free kick crossed right-footed by Steven Gerrard, clearance made by Pavel Pogrebnyak.
Luis Suarez produces a right-footed shot from outside the box and misses left.
Raheem Sterling is ruled offside. Adrian Mariappa takes the direct free kick.
Jesus Fernandez Saez takes the outswinging corner, clearance made by Kaspars Gorkss.
Steven Gerrard takes a shot. Save by Alex McCarthy.
Corner taken right-footed by Steven Gerrard from the left by-line to the near post, Header from deep inside the area by Martin Skrtel goes over the bar.
Luis Suarez takes a shot. Adrian Mariappa gets a block in.
Pavel Pogrebnyak is ruled offside. Brad Jones takes the direct free kick.
Substitution Jonjo Shelvey replaces Nuri Sahin.
Effort on goal by Mikele Leigertwood from 20 yards. Martin Skrtel gets a block in.
Effort from inside the area by Luis Suarez misses to the left of the target.
Garath McCleary takes a shot. Save by Brad Jones.
The assistant referee flags for offside against Jobi McAnuff. Direct free kick taken by Brad Jones.
Free kick crossed left-footed by Nicky Shorey, save by Brad Jones.
Booking Daniel Agger shown a yellow card.
Foul by Daniel Agger on Pavel Pogrebnyak, free kick awarded.
Garath McCleary takes a shot. Brad Jones makes a save. Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Danny Guthrie, Headed effort on goal by Kaspars Gorkss from inside the penalty box misses to the right of the goal.
Luis Suarez takes a shot. Save made by Alex McCarthy.
Luis Suarez challenges Kaspars Gorkss unfairly and gives away a free kick. Adrian Mariappa takes the free kick.
Glen Johnson takes a shot. Adrian Mariappa gets a block in. Shot from just outside the box by Glen Johnson misses to the right of the target.
Jimmy Kebe is ruled offside. Daniel Agger restarts play with the free kick.
Andre Wisdom concedes a free kick for a foul on Jobi McAnuff. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Danny Guthrie from left wing.
Shot by Raheem Sterling. Save by Alex McCarthy.
The match restarts for the second half.
45:00 +2:26 Half time
Half Time It is the end of the first-half.
Steven Gerrard takes the outswinging corner, Mikele Leigertwood manages to make a clearance.
Short corner taken by Jesus Fernandez Saez from the right by-line.
Glen Johnson takes a shot. Blocked by Shaun Cummings.
Glen Johnson has an effort at goal from 18 yards. Save by Alex McCarthy.
Daniel Agger concedes a free kick for a foul on Pavel Pogrebnyak. Direct free kick taken by Danny Guthrie.
Glen Johnson concedes a free kick for a foul on Jimmy Kebe. Shaun Cummings takes the direct free kick.
Shot from just outside the area by Mikele Leigertwood goes over the bar.
Nicky Shorey challenges Jesus Fernandez Saez unfairly and gives away a free kick. Martin Skrtel takes the free kick.
Raheem Sterling concedes a free kick for a foul on Jimmy Kebe. Danny Guthrie crosses the ball in from the free kick, clearance by Nuri Sahin.
Kaspars Gorkss concedes a free kick for a foul on Luis Suarez. Luis Suarez shoots direct from the free kick.
The ball is delivered by Garath McCleary, Glen Johnson makes a clearance.
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Nicky Shorey played to the near post, clearance by Steven Gerrard.
Nicky Shorey sends in a cross, clearance by Glen Johnson.
Effort from outside the penalty box by Luis Suarez goes wide left of the target.
Foul by Nuri Sahin on Pavel Pogrebnyak, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Mikele Leigertwood.
The assist for the goal came from Luis Suarez.
28:28 Goal scored
Goal - Raheem Sterling - Liverpool 1 - 0 Reading A goal is scored by Raheem Sterling from just inside the area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Liverpool 1-0 Reading.
Nuri Sahin takes a shot from just inside the penalty box which clears the crossbar.
Substitution Jem Karacan goes off and Garath McCleary comes on.
Effort on goal by Luis Suarez from just outside the penalty area goes harmlessly over the target.
Jimmy Kebe delivers the ball, save made by Brad Jones.
Foul by Pavel Pogrebnyak on Daniel Agger, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Daniel Agger.
The assistant referee signals for offside against Luis Suarez. Adrian Mariappa restarts play with the free kick.
Raheem Sterling takes a shot from 25 yards. Comfortable save by Alex McCarthy.
Pavel Pogrebnyak concedes a free kick for a foul on Daniel Agger. Free kick taken by Daniel Agger.
A cross is delivered by Nuri Sahin.
Raheem Sterling takes a shot. Adrian Mariappa gets a block in.
Foul by Joe Allen on Jimmy Kebe, free kick awarded. The free kick is delivered left-footed by Nicky Shorey from right channel, Daniel Agger manages to make a clearance.
Glen Johnson produces a cross, clearance by Adrian Mariappa.
Shot from just outside the box by Jesus Fernandez Saez misses to the right of the goal.
Glen Johnson takes a shot from 25 yards. Blocked by Adrian Mariappa.
The ball is delivered by Glen Johnson, Nicky Shorey makes a clearance.
The assistant referee signals for offside against Nuri Sahin. Alex McCarthy takes the free kick.
Centre by Glen Johnson, save by Alex McCarthy.
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Nicky Shorey, clearance made by Andre Wisdom.
Corner taken left-footed by Adrian Mariappa from the right by-line, Andre Wisdom makes a clearance.
Centre by Jobi McAnuff, Glen Johnson manages to make a clearance.
The ref blows the whistle to begin the match.
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