A chaotic three-minute spell at the start of the second half, in which Chelsea scored once and Reading scored twice, summed up the end-of-season feel of the final game of an eventful – if slightly underwhelming – campaign for the Blues.
Ji So-Yun, pictured, had put the visitors 1-0 up within eight minutes, but after Adelina Engman replaced Erin Cuthbert at the start of the second half, bedlam ensued.
Reading levelled in the 50th minute through Natasha Harding, but a minute later captain Kaz Carney restored Chelsea’s advantage with a left-foot shot from a tight angle.
Moments after the restart, Harding struck Chelsea’s bar before Fara Williams drew the Royals level again in the 52nd minute, beating Hedvig Lindahl – playing her final match in goal for the Blues.
Shots continued to rain in, with Beth England hitting the post on the hour mark before – four minutes later – putting Chelsea back ahead in this end-to-end match, firing home right-footed.
With Birmingham winning away at Yeovil, it was essential for Chelsea to hold on to their advantage this time, to retain third spot in the table.
Maria Thorisdottir came on as a sub for Ji towards the end, and the Blues remained in control until the final whistle to finish in the top three behind Arsenal and Man City, who appeared to be settling for a goalless draw until Emma Mitchell scored for the Gunners, two minutes from time.
Arsenal were champions with 54 points, City second with 47 and Chelsea third with 42.