Liverpool stayed firmly in the hunt for a first league title in 24 years as superb strikes from Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge fired them to a 2-1 win over an obdurate Sunderland side at Anfield on Wednesday.
The Merseyside club's seventh successive Premier League victory, achieved without the swaggering attacking play that has lit up their recent performances, moved them back ahead of Manchester City into second place one point behind Chelsea.
After struggling to get into their stride against a stubborn Sunderland rearguard, a powerful Gerrard free kick and a curled effort from Sturridge earned Liverpool a two-goal advantage before Ki sung-Yueng pulled one back 14 minutes from time to ensure a nervy end to the game.
"You have to give credit to Sunderland, they have come to make it difficult for us," Liverpool captain Gerrard said.
"We need to learn that when we go two goals ahead we can't concede. We need to hold on."
Defeat left struggling Sunderland three points adrift of safety in 18th place in the relegation battle as West Ham United moved further clear of danger with a 2-1 home win over 10-man Hull City.
The confidence that is bubbling to the surface in Liverpool was typified by the hordes of flag-waving fans and puffing plumes of red smoke that greeted the Liverpool team bus as it pulled up at an Anfield sizzling with anticipation.
Liverpool's patient probing eventually told when the visitors conceded a free kick on the edge of their area with defender Santiago Vergini perhaps lucky to escape a red card for bringing down Luis Suarez.
Suarez and Daniel Agger stood poised over the ball before Gerrard made a late dash and curled his effort into the top corner. If the first half was largely frustrating for the hosts, the second began with an early goal that lifted the tension.