Chelsea missed the chance to top the table at Christmas when, after having captain John Terry sent off in the 34th minute, their 11-game away Premier League winning streak ended with a 0-0 draw at Everton on today.
Terry was shown a straight red for a wild lunge at Leon Osman, taking the steam out of the Londoners, who had dominated until the dismissal but were then forced to hang on in the second half.
The result leaves Liverpool top with 39 points, one ahead of Chelsea. Aston Villa are third on 34 and Manchester United fourth on 32 with two games in hand. Arsenal are fifth on 31, while Everton remain seventh on 26.
Everything had pointed to a Chelsea win as the Londoners sought to make it 12 in a row on their travels in the league against an Everton side who had not beaten them in 20 games and had managed only one home win this season.
It looked to be going that way too when Ashley Cole forced Tim Howard into a sharp save after two minutes and Everton had to work desperately hard to keep the slick-passing Londoners at arm's length for the next half-hour.
However, Chelsea were forced to change their approach after Terry's dismissal.
Chelsea introduced Didier Drogba, who had scored in his last four games against Everton, for the second half but the big forward barely got a touch as Everton eventually took control.
Tony Hibbert crossed for Marouane Fellaini, only for the club's record signing to head straight at Petr Cech.
The home side cranked up the pressure in the final 20 minutes, with Cech forced into action on several occasions before a Fellaini backheel slipped inches wide.
The keeper then made a brave double save on the line and though Steven Pienaar, wrestling with Michael Ballack, forced the ball over the line, the linesman flagged for offside.
Man of the match Cech, who injured his thumb making that late save, told Setanta Sports: "It's a tough place to come even with 11 men. They are playing well, the crowd was right behind them.
"But I think we kept the ball quite well even with 10 men. They had some chances from the set plays but overall we can be satisfied."
Everton boss David Moyes said: "We tried everything to get a goal. The players did everything we asked of them, we kept trying to do the right things but we were short of centre forwards and maybe that was the key tonight."
Of Terry's red card he said: "I thought his foot was off the ground, my feeling was it was a reckless challenge."Reuse content