Arsenal survived a spirited Reading second half performance to secure their 11th successive WSL victory with a 1-0 win at the Madjeski Stadium.
Stina Blackstenius netted the decisive goal after half an hour and saw a series of opportunities go begging, with Kim Little missing a penalty, before Reading rallied in the latter stages. Manuela Zinsberger made a pair of superb stops to preserve a clean sheet and secure all three points for the Gunners.
With first choice centre halves Leah Williamson and Rafaelle both sidelined, left back Steph Catley stepped into the centre of defence against the Royals. The Australian international carved open the Reading backline inside 30 seconds with a defence splitting pass to send Blackstenius racing clean through, but the Sweden striker was denied by a superb stop from WSL debutant Jackie Burns.
Lauran Wienroither should have have given her side the lead as Arsenal continued to dominate, but the fullback directed Caitlin Foord's cross the wrong side of the post.
The Gunners deservedly broke the deadlock on the half hour mark. Little spun exquisitely and poked the ball through the legs of Gemma Evans and into the path of Blackstenius. The forward sent quickly-taken low drive into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Arsenal continued to dominate in the second half and rattled the woodwork twice inside a minute; Deanne Cooper diverted Katie McCabe's cross onto the upright, before Blackstenius cracked the post with a header from the subsequent corner.
Despite rarely venturing out of their own half during the opening 55 minutes, Reading were gifted a golden opportunity to draw level as Lotte Wubben-Moy failed to deal with a ball over the top and Emma Harries scurried through. However, her effort was kept out by the feet of Manuela Zinsberger.
Arsenal ought to have doubled their advantage shortly after the hour mark after Beth Mead's cross struck the outstretched arm of Lily Woodham, but Little saw her spot kick saved by Burns.
The game should have been put well beyond Reading, but buoyed by their lifeline, the Royals went in search of an equaliser. Zinsberger did superbly to turn Tash Dowie's effort around the post with her feet, before Dowie was again denied, this time by the head of Frida Maanum on the goal line as Arsenal hung on for all three points.
GK: Jackie Burns - 8/10 - Making her WSL debut, forced into a superb save inside 30 seconds to keep out Blackstenius when one-v-one. Guessed correctly to palm away Little's penalty in the second half.
RB: Amalie Eikeland - 6/10 - Had her work cut out against the energetic Foord and McCabe, but put in a big shift.
CB: Gemma Evans - 6/10 - Nutmegged by Little in the buildup to Arsenal's opener. Integral as Reading rallied in the second half with a resilient performance.
CB: Deanna Cooper - 6/10 - Potentially not close enough to Blackstenius for Arsenal's opener, enabling the forward to spin and get her shot away. Diverted McCabe's cross onto the post in the second half.
LB: Emma Mukandi (45' for Bryson) - 5/10 - A tough day against her former side, spent much of the game camped in her own half dealing with wave after wave of Arsenal attack. Replaced at the break.
RM: Emma Harries (90' for Wellings) - 6/10 - Saw Reading's first clear sighting of goal after gambling on a ball over the top, but was kept out by the feet of Zinsberger. One of the Royals' most lively attacking threats. Forced off with injury on the stroke of full time.
CM: Tia Primmer (74' for Wade) - 6/10 - The exciting youngster was full of running and energy against Arsenal's fluid midfield three.
CM: Justine Vanhaevermaet - 6/10 - Reading's midfield were full of heart and running, and really took the game to Arsenal in the second half.
CM: Rachel Rowe - 7/10 - Instrumental in Reading's much improved second half performance with a dogged, determined performance.
LM: Lily Woodham - 5/10 - Conceded a penalty in the second half after Mead's cross struck her out stretched arm. Had an impressive burst down the flank in the first half, but otherwise limited in her attacking impact.
ST: Tash Dowie - 6/10 - Ran her heart out but largely left to feed off scraps until the latter stages. Saw two efforts kept out in quick succession; first a low strike was turned around the post by Zinsberger, and then a header was cleared off the line.
SUB: Faye Bryson (45' for Mukandi) - 6/10
SUB: Lauren Wade (74' from Primmer) - 6/10
SUB: Charlie Wellings (90' for Harries) - N/A
GK: Manuela Zinsberger - 8/10 - Made a pair of crucial saves to keep out Harries and Dowie with her feet in the second half to preserve Arsenal's lead.
RB: Laura Wienroither - 6/10 - Should have opened the scoring but fired narrowly wide of the post from close range after connecting with Foord's cross.
CB: Lotte Wubben-Moy - 6/10 - Her first WSL start of the season, played her side into trouble with a flicked backwards header that sent Harries through on goal.
CB: Steph Catley - 6/10 - Moved across to centre back due to injuries. Carved open the Reading defence inside 30 seconds with a fabulous pass to put Blackstenius through.
LB: Katie McCabe (83' for Beattie) - 6/10 - Saw a teasing cross deflected onto the post by Cooper in the second half. Solid defensively.
CM: Lia Walti (66' for Maanum) - 7/10 - So cool and classy in possession.
CM: Kim Little - 7/10 - Instrumental in Arsenal's opener with a fabulous spin and nutmeg to tee up Blackstenius. Saw her penalty saved in the second half. Effortlessly good in possession, driving Arsenal forward.
CAM: Vivianne Miedema (66' for Nobbs) - 6/10 - Saw a close range effort comfortably held by Burns. Showed flashes of intricate build up play but unable to have her usual devastating impact on proceedings.
RW: Beth Mead - 7/10 - Produced a few flashes of genius to effortlessly move away from the Reading backline and carve out opportunities for herself.
ST: Stina Blackstenius - 8/10 - Denied when one-on-one by Burns having timed her run to perfection to get in behind the Reading backline. Opened the scoring with a really well-taken low strike from the edge of the box.
LW: Caitlin Foord (66' for Hurtig) - 6/10 - Picked out Wienroither at the back post in the first half as the Gunners almost broke the deadlock. Full of running, replaced just after the hour.
SUB: Jordan Nobbs (66' for Miedema) - 6/10
SUB: Lina Hurtig (66' for Foord) - 5/10
SUB: Frida Maanum (66' for Walti) - 7/10 - Made a crucial goal line clearance to preserve Arsenal's lead.
SUB: Jen Beattie (83' for McCabe) - 6/10