It wasn't by quite the scoreline that Liverpool fans have grown accustomed to, but the Reds kept their winning streak going with a 2-1 victory against relegation-threatened Sunderland, pulling to within a point of league leaders Chelsea in the process.
The visitors set out to defend and more or less succeeded in frustrating Liverpool's normally free-scoring attack, relegating the hosts to a series of frustrated, long-range shots. But the problem with doing this is that eventually one of those long-range efforts will wind up on target, and the Reds finally managed to make the breakthrough just before halftime.
Lee Cattermole gave away the ball in the middle of the pitch and Luis Suarez seized upon the error, eventually forcing the unfortunate figure of Santiago Vergini into hauling him down just outside the box. The centre back avoided a straight red for reasons unknown, but the Black Cats did not escape without further punishment -- Steven Gerrard curled the resulting free kick into the back of the net (via Vito Mannone's fingertips, no less).
Immediately after the restart, Daniel Sturridge fired in via Wes Brown, prompting a double switch from Gus Poyet. At 2-0, the result was inevitable, but Sunderland kept pushing up, and nearly managed to reduce the deficit via first Ki Sung-Yueng, who just failed to get on the end of a clipped ball over the top then Cattermole, who rattled the bar from near the penalty spot.
Eventually the newfound Sunderland pressure would tell, and just after Sturridge hit the bar the visitors managed to grab a goal, Ki heading home unmarked from a corner kick. And they had a chance to draw level 89 minutes in when John O'Shea was given a free header inside the six yard box, but the centre back seemed so surprised to get a sight of the ball that he could do no more than flick well wide.
That was to prove the last chance in a nervy game. Liverpool weren't at their scintillating best, and the visitors fought bravely, but the gulf in class proved too much to overcome. The title race remains very much on.
Liverpool starting lineup (4-3-1-2): Simon Mignolet; John Flanagan, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson; Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson; Philippe Coutinho; Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge (Raheem Sterling 77').
Goals: Gerrard 38', Sturridge 48'.
Sunderland starting lineup (5-3-2): Vito Mannone; Andrea Dossena (Jack Colback 83'), Santiago Vergini, John O'Shea, Wes Brown, Phil Bardsley; Liam Bridcutt, Lee Cattermole, Emanuele Giaccherini (Adam Johnson 61'); Connor Wickham (Ki Sung-Yueng 61'), Jozy Altidore.
Goals: Ki 76'.