With the two teams having played out a goalless first half, it took Benteke just 29 seconds to open the scoring, netting what proved to be the only goal of the game.
Sunderland's defence proves sturdy early on
With Sunderland starting Yann M'Vila, Lee Cattermole and Jack Rodwell in a fairly defensive looking three man central midfield, it was no surprise that Liverpool failed to make an early breakthrough, despite having the lions share of possession.
It didn't help that they weren't taking advantage of the chances they did get, with Philippe Coutinho doing well to win the ball from Sebastian Coates, only for Roberto Firmino's touch to be off from his countryman's pass.
Firmino rattles the woodwork
Firmino nearly made up for it after around 20 minutes, beating two on the edge of he area, before unleashing a superb strike. Unfortunately for him, Vito Mannone was equal to the effort, producing a fine save to tip the ball onto the post with his fingertips.
With Rodwell forced off injured following a challenge by Emre Can, Sunderland left themseles slightly more open at the back, Sam Allardyce opting to bring on Duncan Watmore.
However, they did have more options going forward, and ex-Liverpool Fabio Borini almost capitalised on this. Taking the ball with his back to goal, the Italian turned well, but could only curl wide of Simon Mignolet's goal.
Whilst that was a warning sign for the visitors as to Sunderland's danger on the counter, the Reds did still remain on top, with Firmino forcing another effort on target with a header, whilst Jordan Henderson was unlucky to see his shot blocked, having had the ball played back to him from a corner kick.
Benteke strikes after 29 second half seconds
With the Black Cats having done well to keep the game goalless going into the break, they'll have been extremely disappointed with their start to the second half, as Liverpool took the lead within 30 seconds of the restart.
Nathaniel Clyne fed the ball in from deep, and it took a feint touch from Adam Lallana to slot Benteke in on goal, with the Belgian making no mistake in sliding the ball acros goal into Mannone's far corner.
The home side weren't down and out though, with Borini again looking lively, swivelling in the area before sending a shot straight into Mignolet's arms. Another chance came and went minutes later, as a dangerous free-kick somehow evaded everyone before flying out for a goal-kick.
In a night filled with players on the floor injured, Liverpool skipper Henderson was the next to be forced off with a foot problem, replaced by Lucas Leiva. The Brazilian looked to make an early impact, beating a man in the middle before teeing up Coutinho, who could only shoot straight at the 'keeper.
Sunderland continued to knock at the door, but didn't do enough to trouble Mignolet, and Liverpool really should have doubled their lead with two minutes remaining. Firmino did well to poach the ball deep into the Black Cats' half, roaming into the area to set up Ibe, who cut back across before smashing his effort over the bar.
Reds hang on, despite missing late chances
The Reds surely thought that they'd had their last chance of the game, but had an even better chance to make it 2-0 deep into added time, with Benteke breaking in behind the defence, only to send his effort straight at Mannone, missing a golden stoppage time chance for the second time within a week.
However, it didn't matter, as Jürgen Kloop's side held on for the remaining two minutes, taking a vital three points, moving them level on points with deadly rivals Manchester United, who they can move above with victory over West Ham United on Saturday.