Fernando Torres capped a fine display with a hat-trick as Liverpool dumped Reading out of the Carling Cup.
Yossi Benayoun fired Liverpool ahead, but Bobby Convey volleyed an equaliser from Nicky Shorey's corner.
Torres raced clear to score but again Reading hit back when another Shorey corner was prodded in by John Halls.
But Torres made sure of their place in the fourth round when he slammed home from a John Arne Riise square ball and then ran clear before slotting home.
Despite both sides making a host of changes there was no doubting the importance of the game as they combined to produce an entertaining and competitive encounter.
But Torres' all-round contribution and sublime finishing skills proved the difference between the Premier League sides and will have sent out a warning to their domestic rivals.
It was the perfect response after being left on the bench by manager Rafael Benitez against Birmingham at the weekend.
Reading caused problems for Liverpool's backline from the start, with Leroy Lita guilty of missing a glorious early chance when he headed Halls' cross straight at the Reds' debutant keeper Charles Itandje.
Instead it was Benayoun who opened the scoring when he picked up the ball 10 yards outside the area, nutmegged Andre Bikey before crashing his shot past Adam Federici.
Convey capped his recent return from injury with a first goal in over 18 months, meeting Shorey's corner from the right with a volley which found the bottom corner.
Liverpool were unhappy with the goal, with three Reading players standing in offside positions.
But Torres put them back in control after the break when he was sent through on goal by Sebastian Leto and held off Bikey before easily slipping it past Federici.
Torres was giving Bikey a torrid time and should have been rewarded with a penalty when the Reading defender hurled him down in the area.
Reading threatened to make Liverpool pay when another Shorey corner was stabbed home at the second attempt by Halls for his first goal for the club.
But Riise came off the bench to tee-up Torres and he confidently drilled past Federici.
The lively Lita had an overhead kick tipped over but it was Torres' day as he was sent clear and he teased Federici before rounding the keeper and tapping in to secure the win and the match ball.
Reading: Federici, Halls (Kitson 80), Duberry, Bikey, Shorey, De la Cruz, Harper, Convey (Hunt 80), Fae, Long (Henry 79), Lita.Subs Not Used: Hahnemann, Cisse.
Booked: Bikey, Duberry, Fae.
Goals: Convey 28, Halls 64.
Liverpool: Itandje, Finnan, Carragher, Lucas (Hobbs 89), Aurelio (Riise 69), Arbeloa, Benayoun, Sissoko, Leto, Crouch (Gerrard 77), Torres.Subs Not Used: Martin, Putterill.
Goals: Benayoun 23, Torres 50, 72, 86.
Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).