Liverpool had to manage again without Steven Gerrard but turned in a performance to confirm the view that they have found another inspirational force after the energy of Luis Suarez drove them to a third victory in an unbeaten run of five, to go fifth in the Premier League.
Despite numerous chances, the Uruguayan failed to add to the two fine goals he scored against Stoke in the Carling Cup in midweek – which earned his side a quarter-final against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – yet his perpetual willingness to be at the heart of the action set an example his team-mates were almost obliged to match. Goals from Charlie Adam, from a penalty won by Suarez, and Andy Carroll, from Suarez's pass, saw Liverpool home.
Liverpool insisted that Gerrard's absence had nothing to do with the groin problem that caused him a six-month lay-off but was due to an ankle infection. Yet manager Kenny Dalglish could offer no guidance on when the England midfielder would return. "It's nothing to do with any injury he has had before and he was in our minds to play today before it flared up," Dalglish said.
Jamie Carragher was missing with a calf strain, but the ankle injury that Suarez suffered at Stoke had cleared up and he found himself at the centre of controversy when Liverpool were awarded the penalty from which Adam gave them the lead after nine minutes.
Referee Lee Mason appeared unmoved when Jerome Thomas blocked Suarez's path after the striker attempted to push the ball past him, but he gave the penalty on the advice of his assistant, whose view that Thomas barged into the Liverpool player while making no attempt to play the ball was supported by television replays.
Albion's manager Roy Hodgson took a different view. "I think my player was entitled to screen the ball to clear the ball and it worries me that penalties are given for things like that," he said. "I think that penalties should be a bit harder to achieve." Dalglish had no opinion on the matter. "I'm not trying to be evasive," he said. "I couldn't tell from my view and I haven't seen the replays."
Hodgson became more and more frustrated with Mason's decision-making. One free-kick given Liverpool's way prompted him to throw his coat on to the floor in exasperation, although he put it back on quickly on a chilly night after Suarez took aim but fired well over the bar.
He had feared he might be on the wrong end of a Suarez-inspired nightmare after being thwarted in his attempts to sign the former Ajax forward while he was Liverpool's manager. Yet his erstwhile quarry, for all his dazzling footwork and penchant for spectacular goals, could not produce finishing to match. He lofted the ball over the bar when Martin Skrtel set him up inside the six-yard box in the first half and a sequence of intricate manoeuvres in the second half each ended with shots that missed the target.
Liverpool were still two goals to the good at half-time after Lucas Leiva intercepted a free-kick by Jonas Olsson with Albion set up to attack. Lucas sent Suarez clear with Carroll breaking into space down the middle. Suarez's pass was true and though his team-mate's first touch was dreadful, his second just managed to push it past Ben Foster.
Albion at least managed a meaningful attack at the start of the second half, with Somen Tchoyi going close, and they were more effective after Graham Dorrans and James Morrison replaced Youssouf Mulumbu and Paul Scharner in central midfield – changes Hodgson was planning to make irrespective of the knee injury that forced the latter to withdraw.
Yet the threat of more goals came from Liverpool. In addition to the chances Suarez did not take, he was denied by Olsson's block with one that was heading for goal. Foster saved from Carroll and Jose Enrique and Stewart Downing hit a post in the 90th minute.
West Bromwich (4-4-2): Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Jones; Brunt, Sharner (Morrison, 58), Mulumbu (Dorrans, 62), Thomas; Odemwingie, Tchoyi (Cox, 71).
Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Jose Enrique; Henderson, Lucas, Adam, Downing; Carroll, Suarez (Bellamy, 81).
Referee Lee Mason.
Man of the match Suarez (Liverpool).
Match rating 7/10.