Fernando Torres scored two late goals to give Liverpool a 2-0 victory over 10-man Chelsea on Sunday that kept the Reds firmly in the race for the Premier League title. As a fourth successive league draw loomed, Torres met Fabio Aurelio's cross with a glancing header at the near post in the 89th minute.
The Spain striker, who missed December with a hamstring injury, added his second goal in stoppage time, calmly slotting past Petr Cech after Yossi Benayoun was tackled by Chelsea defender Ashley Cole.
"They are my first two goals after the injury," Torres said. "To score at home this season for the first time and against Chelsea is fantastic."
After a first half that produced little to excite the 44,174 fans, the match came to life after the hour-mark when Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard was dismissed for a sliding challenge on Xabi Alonso.
Alonso was out for more than three months after Lampard broke his ankle here in January 2005.
"If it's possible for the referee to look at the situation on TV again, maybe he will change the red card for Lampard and say it was for Xabi Alonso not Lampard," Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "It changed the game one million per cent because we lost the middle and we didn't have more of the ball. They had more chances to arrive there and score the goal."
The last-gasp win, which followed a 1-0 triumph at Stamford Bridge in October, allowed the Reds to leapfrog the visitors and take second place in the standings - two points behind Manchester United, which has a game in hand.
Not since Liverpool's last title-winning season of 1989-90 has the 18-time champions completed the double over Chelsea. "Liverpool are better than us," Scolari said. "We need to try again because we have many games, but were are behind two clubs now."
The pre-match intrigue centered on who was and - more significantly - who wasn't at Anfield.
While the feud between co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. isn't as acrimonious as it was a year ago, their lingering divisions were clear for fans to see as they sat more than a dozen seats apart in the directors' box.
High on the agenda, though, on their first joint visit to the stadium in more than a year is the future of Benitez, who is trying to secure a new contract on his terms, and also of striker Robbie Keane.
Keane was left out of the squad for the second consecutive weekend by Benitez, although he made a six-minute cameo appearance in a midweek draw at Wigan. The decision raises the possibility of a return to Tottenham for the Ireland forward after six months at Liverpool, but Benitez said he doesn't expect him to leave before the transfer window closes Monday.
As snow swirled around the pitch, Alonso, who Benitez tried to offload before the season started, was the first to test the visitors with a fierce strike from 20 meters (yards) that Petr Cech tipped away in the 10th minute.
No red shirts were lurking when Cech spilled Javier Mascherano's 20th-minute effort and there was another erratic moment from the Czech goalkeeper soon afterwards when he sliced a clearance, almost allowing Torres to pounce.
Cole nearly bundled the ball into his own goal after an Alberto Riera strike was parried, while Cech's crossbar was rattled in the 68th when defender Alex deflected Alonso's shot.
With Chelsea yet to provide any danger for Pepe Reina, manager Luiz Felipe Scolari deployed Deco for Malouda and Didier Drogba for Anelka.
Benayoun, who replaced Riera, unleashed a curling shot that Cech palmed wide with a diving save, and followed up with a volley that flew over the bar.
In stoppage time, Benayoun found Chelsea defender Jose Bosingwa's boot in his back as the Liverpool midfielder tried to run down the clock by the corner flag.
"If the referee decided to send off Bosingwa I would have understood," Scolari said. "A red card for this I would accept, but not Lampard's."