Fernando Torres' much-anticipated Chelsea debut ended in disappointment for player and club as Raul Meireles sealed a memorable win for the Spaniard's former Liverpool team-mates.
Meireles hooked home from close range after 68 minutes to take the game - and potentially any lingering title aspirations - from the big-spending Blues.
It was a different story for £50million Torres though, with the most expensive player in British football history hauled off after 65 unremarkable minutes.
Torres received a noisy reception when his name was called, with his new fans cheering and his old ones booing the announcement.
The game was little more than a minute old when he had his first sight of Liverpool's goal, courtesy of a mislaid pass from Maxi Rodriguez.
The Spaniard took a couple of touches towards the edge of the area before aiming for the top corner, but there was too much elevation on the shot.
Liverpool continued to show nerves, Dirk Kuyt giving away possession in the middle of the park after under-hitting his pass to the lively Martin Kelly.
Torres followed suit when he next saw the ball, taking a heavy touch and surrendering possession under pressure from Steven Gerrard.
With Torres partnering Didier Drogba in attack, Nicolas Anelka's role was a more withdrawn one but the Frenchman struggled to create much in the opening 15 minutes.
Jamie Carragher and Kuyt combined well down the right to fashion a rare Liverpool attack but the Dutchman's cross could not find the waiting Meireles.
There was a heart-stopping moment for Martin Skrtel when Anelka nearly robbed him on the edge of the penalty box but the centre-half did well to hook away Ashley Cole's cross from the left.
Daniel Agger floored Torres, to the amusement of the away contingent, when he tried to pass him on the left flank but the free-kick was harmless from Drogba.
Torres gave a glimpse of his sure touch when he flicked the ball to Frank Lampard to set up a quick break and moments later he had the chance to show his predatory instincts from eight yards.
He got on the end of Drogba's pass but saw the diving Carragher smother his shot.
With 33 minutes gone Liverpool should have had the lead.
Following good work by Glen Johnson, Gerrard drilled the ball across the face of the Chelsea goal and to Maxi at the far post.
The Argentina winger fluffed his connection from point-blank range and saw the ball canon back off the crossbar.
If the first-half's lack of quality could be explained away as nervous tension following the Torres transfer, the drab start to the second was a disappointment.
It took seven minutes for the first move of note, Kuyt handing Johnson a shooting chance from 20 yards, and even then no save was needed.
The hosts started to come to life after that, Drogba and Anelka each forcing corners as they looked to test Reina.
Torres continued to be a subdued presence and it did not help his cause that each time the ball came his way, at least two former team-mates were on hand to relieve him of it.
Kuyt, meanwhile, was working hard in the Spaniard's former lone striker role but with Luis Suarez waiting on the bench Liverpool had more explosive options in reserve.
Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti clearly felt he did too and with 65 minutes gone he called time on an unremarkable Torres debut by sending on Salomon Kalou.
The Reds took the lead soon after, Gerrard breaking down the right and whipping a ball into the centre that neither Petr Cech nor Branislav Ivanovic came to meet.
The ball evaded Kuyt but Meireles was rewarded for his supporting run and hooked the ball home with aplomb.
Drogba tested Reina at the near post as Ancelotti's men attempted to rescue both the game and their title challenge and also made a hopeful appeal for handball in the Liverpool area with 10 minutes remaining.
Liverpool had chances on the counter, substitute Fabio Aurelio hammering one at Cech's near post and drawing a smart save.
The Blues became increasingly frenzied in their attempts to draw level and the first appearance of new £20million signing David Luiz, as a replacement, passed by almost unnoticed.
Ivanovic appealed for a penalty as injury-time began, but the officials were rightly uninterested.