MATCH REPORT: READING 2 CHELSEA 2
The Blues allow a two-goal advantage to slip very late in the game, and head home with only a point when for much of the game all three appeared to be in the bag.
Frank Lampard made it 2-0 20 minutes into the second half with a perfectly-executed header, a goal which appeared to knock the stuffing out of the home side.
Three minutes from time, however, Reading pulled one back through substitute Adam Le Fondre, who latched on to a Hope Akpan pass and crashed his strike past Turnbull.
Ramires went close to restoring our two-goal lead straight from kick-off, forcing a magnificent save from Adam Federici, but Reading salvaged a point right at the death when Le Fondre arrived at the far-post to volley home after the Blues had failed to clear our lines.
We now need to lift ourselves ahead of a trip to Newcastle on Saturday.
Rafael Benitez made two changes from the side which drew 2-2 in the FA Cup at Brentford on Sunday. John Terry, who made his first start since November at Griffin Park, dropped down to the bench, with Cesar Azpilicueta coming back into the side, and Branislav Ivanovic moving inside to partner Gary Cahill. Elsewhere, Mata returned to the starting line-up having come on as a half-time substitute at the weekend, with Marko Marin the player making way, while Ryan Bertrand retained his place in the side, returning to the club where he enjoyed a loan spell back during the 2009/10 campaign. For the second game in succession, Torres, whose late equaliser rescued us at Brentford, was preferred to Demba Ba.
The Blues were on the front-foot early on and forced three corners within the opening six minutes as we attempted to seize the advantage, and it was from the second of those where we had our first real sight of goal.
Frank Lampard, captain for the night in the absence of Terry, swung his delivery to the far-post where Bertrand arrived to head it back into the six-yard box, but as Cahill looked set to pounce, Alex Pearce cleared for the home side.
Pavel Pogrebnyak, who broke the deadlock in the corresponding fixture at Stamford Bridge, did enough in that game to suggest Branislav Ivanovic and Cahill would have their hands full, and so it proved during the opening exchanges, as his physical presence drew two early fouls from the defensive duo.
The Blues were enjoying plenty of possession without seriously troubling the Reading back four and, as the 20-minute mark approached, both goalkeepers were yet to make a save of any note.
We had what appeared to be a legitimate free-kick appeal waved away on the edge of the box when Mata and Oscar's exchange of passes was intercepted by Mikele Leigertwood, and soon after we should have opened the scoring.
Jobi McAnuff became the first player to enter referee Mark Halsey's book for a late challenge on Oscar, and from the resulting kick Lampard picked out the unmarked Cahill, who sent his header inches past Adam Federici's left-hand post.
Brian McDermott's side went into the game having won their last four matches in all competitions, including back-to-back victories in the league against West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United, but they struggled to impose themselves for much of the first half, leaving Ross Turnbull as a virtual spectator.
Five minutes before the break we eventually got in behind the Reading defence; Mata picked out Oscar with a delicate, floated pass, and as the Brazilian brought the ball under control, it rolled into the path of Torres, whose shot flew harmlessly across the penalty area and out of play.
The pressure, though, had been gradually building, and right on the stroke of half-time we took the lead with a goal that was made in Spain.
Mata fed Torres on the edge of the box, and the striker showed great vision to pick out his fellow countryman's run, playing a delightful pass back into his path, which Mata fired past Federici into the bottom corner for his 15th goal of the season.
Nine minutes into the second half we came close to extending our lead, and what a goal it would have been.
Lampard, so often the orchestrator, picked up possession deep inside the Reading half and floated a delightful pass into the path of the advancing Oscar, who brought the ball down on his chest, swivelled and fired a brilliant volley inches narrowly wide of Federici's right-hand post.
Just after the hour mark another fantastic opportunity went begging. Lampard won the ball back and ran at the retreating Reading defence before threading a pass into the path of Oscar; the youngster could have shot, but opted to tee up Torres, and as the Spaniard looked certain to score, Adrian Mariappa somehow managed to get there first and clear the danger.
The hosts weren't so fortunate from the resulting corner, however, as the Blues doubled our advantage.
Mata turned from scorer to provider, sending his delivery into a crowded penalty area where Lampard climbed highest and headed powerfully past Federici into the roof of the net, sending the away fans packed-in behind the goal wild.
It was the midfielder's 10th goal of the season in all competitions and his 196th for the club, leaving him only six goals behind Bobby Tambling in the all-time list.
The second goal put us firmly in control of the game, and Rafael Benitez, perhaps sensing the hardest work had been done, made his first substitution of the night, replacing Mata with Yossi Benayoun, the Israeli's first appearance in a Chelsea shirt since the opening day of last season.
Reading refused to cave in after our second goal, and went close twice in quick succession through substitutes Hope Akpan and Adam Le Fondre, but with time ticking away we were happy to see the game out without taking any unnecessary risks.
Oscar, whose influence grew throughout the second half, should have put the game to bed six minutes from time when he raced on to a Benayoun pass only to be denied by the leg of Federici.
With three minutes remaining, however, the hosts set up a tense finish when they pulled a goal back.
Akpan supplied the pass, and unsurprisingly it was Le Fondre - who had scored both goals in their win against Newcastle - who evaded Ivanovic and fired past Turnbull.
It was a goal that gave the home supporters hope, but the Blues went straight up the other end and almost wrapped the points up, as Federici pulled off a marvellous save to thwart Ramires.
Two minutes into added time, however, McDermott's side pulled off a remarkable comeback. As a hopeful ball was punted into the Chelsea box, we failed to clear our lines, and when it fell to Le Fondre, he calmly volleyed past Turnbull into the roof of the net.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Turnbull; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole; Ramires, Lampard (c); Oscar, Mata (Benayoun 76), Bertrand; Torres (Ba 90+2).
Unused substitutes: Hilario, Ferreira, Terry, Ake, Marin.
Scorers Mata 45+1, Lampard 65
Booked Ramires 39, Azpilicueta 90+5
Reading (4-1-4-1): Federici; Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte; Leigertwood; Kebe, Karacan (Akpan 76), Guthrie (McCleary 58), McAnuff (c) (Le Fondre 66); Pogrebnyak.
Unused substitutes: Taylor, Shorey, Morrison, Robson-Kanu.
Scorers Le Fondre 87, 90+4
Booked McAnuff 28
Referee Mark Halsey