Liverpool overcame a huge challenge to their top four credentials as they beat West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns on Sunday, piling the pressure on those below them.
Roberto Firmino's goal just before half-time was all the Reds needed as they held on expertly at the end to secure a win, extending their unbeaten run in the league to seven.
Tony Pulis was clearly looking to exploit Liverpool's struggles with crosses and set-pieces as he brought Chris Brunt into the team at left-back, but did seem wary of the Reds' attacking threat, evidenced by the inclusion of defensive midfielder Claudio Yacob.
Jürgen Klopp brought Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino back into the fold after they were on the bench against Stoke City, whilst Lucas Leiva replaced Ragnar Klavan, who sat out with a knee injury.
Liverpool dominated possession from the off but it was West Brom who had the better of the early exchanges, chance wise. Matt Phillips, only recently back from injury, fancied his chances against James Milner and could have picked up an assist had Hal Robson-Kanu not sliced wide from 12 yards out.
An even better chance came soon after, following a spurned chance for the visitors as Roberto Firmino fired wide from the left-hand side of the area.
Chadli fluffs huge chance
The Baggies were always going to be a threat from set-pieces and they proved to be when Phillips got on the end of a second ball, swinging a cross towards the unmarked Nacer Chadli at the back post. Having lost Nathaniel Clyne, all the Belgian had to do was stuff the ball past Simon Mignolet, but fluffed his lines from yards out as he barely made contact with the ball.
Liverpool did begin to grow into the game and had efforts from Philippe Coutinho and Divock Origi, the latter forcing Ben Foster into his first save of the game, yet those efforts didn’t give an indication of what was to come – a Liverpool goal before the break.
Reds bag one against the odds
With so much of the pre-game talk focused around Liverpool’s vulnerability from set-pieces, it seemed inconceivable that they may score from one.
However, when a fairly poor free-kick from James Milner was flicked forward by a straining Lucas Leiva on the edge of the area, it was Firmino who had jumped ahead of the rest to power a header down into the ground and beat Foster, right on the stroke of half-time.
Milner misses golden opportunity for two-nil
Klopp's men really should have been celebrating a second 10 minutes after the interval, thanks to some superb work by Firmino. Drifting past people and playing passes like there was nobody there, the Brazilian eventually collected the ball from Georginio Wijnaldum and expertly tee'd up a wide open James Milner in the area. The left-back, however, volleyed well over.
The Reds did have the ball in the net soon after, Firmino setting up Origi after a clipped ball into the area from Lucas, the flag up against Firmino before Origi headed in.
Jonny Evans went into the book for a fairly blatant shove on Coutinho just outside the penalty area, Liverpool nearly making good of the free-kick as Joel Matip headed wide from Milner's delivery.
West Brom were struggling to get much of a foothold in the game but did enjoy some possession on occasion, Pulis having made all three substitutes compared to none by Klopp with 20 minutes left. Jake Livermore may feel he should have done better with a strike from 20 yards out that rolled well wide.
Drama late on as visitors get it done
Phillips certainly should have done better in the 80th minute when he was played in down the left by Salomon Rondon, who had successfully rolled Matip. With Mignolet rushing out desperately, Chadli saw his effort well saved by the Liverpool 'keeper as he attempted to go across goal.
With West Brom pushing hard in stoppage time, they threw goalkeeper Ben Foster up for a corner and almost paid the price as Liverpool scrambled the ball away. Alberto Moreno broke with his first touches after coming on for Coutinho and opted to shoot rather than play in a teammate, firing narrowly wide of goal from just inside the West Brom half.
It mattered little though, the away end going crazy as their side held on for a precious win, taking all three points from the Black Country.