Loughborough - without their captain, Tamara Stronge, absent at an Irish training weekend - relied heavily on the experience of Mary Nevill, the former Great Britain captain, to blunt Kate Parker, Reading's former international striker.
Nevill, in spite of suffering a badly cut hand which required six stitches, stuck to her task, got the better of the duel, and the students clung to their slender lead.
In their second game, minus Nevill, Loughborough went down 2-0 to two late penalty-corner goals from the Harleston Magpies captain, Jane Ray.
Earlier, Reading had dominated the first half of their game against Harleston without scoring before taking the lead 11 minutes after the interval. Parker forced a penalty stroke and Denise Shorney scored. Harleston's equaliser from Ray came in the last minute.
Annette Stroud, the St Albans captain, gave her side a first-minute lead against Poynton, but the Northern club snatched a 20th- minute equaliser through Jane Ambler. Carolyne Daniels, with a 19th- minute goal against Cheltenham, assured Poynton of their semi-final place.
St Albans, with a goalless draw in their last game against Cheltenham, play Harleston in this morning's first semi-final.Reuse content