Kevin Doyle's first goal of the season for Reading sealed defeat for Derby who are still without a point - or a league goal - on their travels this season.
Doyle (left) was a thorn in the side of Claude Davis all afternoon
The Royals should have had a first-half penalty when captain Graeme Murty's shot struck the outstretched hand of Rams defender Jay McEveley.
But Murty's cross was headed in by Doyle just after the hour mark.
Andy Griffin and Rob Earnshaw both fired wide for Derby as the visitors failed to register a shot on target.
But it was no more then Reading deserved for their enterprise in attack, while boss Steve Coppell will have been buoyed by the clean sheet after the same starting XI shipped seven goals in last Saturday's 11-goal thriller against Portsmouth.
The two earliest chances both fell to Reading winger Stephen Hunt, who fired a shot over the bar and then headed Doyle's right-wing cross wide, while Doyle himself nodded Liam Rosenior's cross just over.
Derby offered little in attack until the half-hour mark when the recalled Griffin ran forward from right-back, and cut inside on his left foot to drill a shot just wide of Marcus Hahnemann's left-hand post.
Griffin's inclusion saw Tyrone Mears pushed into a more attacking role down the right, and he looked dangerous when the Rams counter-attacked.
By contrast, striker Kenny Miller looked unlikely to add to his goal tally this season, being caught offside a number of times, although a foul on him did earn Ivar Ingimarsson the first caution of the game.
Derby keeper Stephen Bywater gifted Reading the first corner when he sliced a back-pass behind.
The Royals had a justifiable appeal for a penalty when that corner found Murty, whose shot was clearly handled by McEveley.
Less than a minute later, referee Lee Mason waved play on after Dean Leacock also appeared to handle in the area.
Claude Davis, who struggled to contain the pace of Irish duo Hunt and Doyle, was booked for a clumsy challenge on the latter.
Bywater was called into action again to palm Brynjar Gunnarsson's header over the bar just before the break.
Derby had the better of the game just after the interval, and skipper Matt Oakley tried his luck from 25 yards but his shot fizzed wide.
Stephen Pearson also had a good chance but dragged his shot off target, while at the other end Doyle just failed to wriggle free of his markers for long enough to shoot.
But then Murty's right-wing cross flicked off a defender's head and fell to Doyle who directed his header back across goal, past Bywater's despairing dive.
Pressing for an equaliser, substitute Earnshaw curled a shot agonisingly wide after making room for himself, before astonishingly another blatant McEveley handball - this time just outside the box - again went unpunished by Lancashire official Mason.
Doyle tried to add a second as time ran out, but could only shoot straight at Bywater - while the Royals cleared their lines successfully at the other end to wrap up a valuable three points.
Reading striker Kevin Doyle on his first goal of the season:
"It's nice to get off the mark in the Premier League - the first one's always the hardest, and hopefully I can go on a run now.
"Last week (the 7-4 defeat by Portsmouth) was a freak game - I didn't know whether to laugh or cry after it, so to win with a clean sheet is great.
"We worked very hard during the week, with double training sessions, and it paid off."
Derby manager Bily Davies:
"We gave away too many free-kicks in the first half, but we made a couple of changes and we looked the more likely to score in the second half.
"But you've got to keep clean sheets, and we gave away a soft goal.
"We are getting better and more confident - we just need that first away performance to kick us on."
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Duberry, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Rosenior (Oster 60), Harper, Gunnarsson, Hunt, Doyle, Kitson.
Subs Not Used: Federici, Lita, Fae, Bikey.
Goals: Doyle 63.
Derby: Bywater, Mears, Davis, Leacock, Griffin (Earnshaw 75), Feilhaber (Lewis 65), Pearson, Oakley, McEveley, Howard (Barnes 65), Miller.
Subs Not Used: Price, Todd.
Att: 23, 901.
Ref: Lee Mason (Lancashire).