A stirring final 30 minutes saw Sunderland make Liverpool sweat over victory at Anfield last night.
But for all their late heroics, the only thing that changed for the Black Cats is that they have one less game to fight to safety.
Sunderland were never expected to beat Brendan Rogers’ title-chasing side and in fielding a seven-man defensive unit their plan was clearly to limit the damage and strike late.
For 39 minutes it worked until Santiago Vergini’s poor touch let Luis Suarez in, and he brought the Uruguayan down. Although the Argentinian was lucky as the last man to escape without a red card, Steven Gerrard converted the free-kick.
Daniel Sturridge added a second goal four minutes into the second half.
Lee Cattermole was also lucky not to be sent off after clipping Suarez’s heels in the D. Referee Kevin Friend did not give a free kick.
A double substitution on the hour mark, introducing Ki Sung-Yueng and Adam Johnson improved Sunderland considerably and the Korean headed in the winger’s 77th-minute corner to give Liverpool a far more nervous finish than they had anticipated.
Cattermole and Sturridge both hit the crossbar five minutes apart before Ki’s goal. John O’Shea might have equalised in the 89th minute, but headed wide.
Sunderland remain in 18th, three points from safety. They now have only one game in hand to bridge that gap.
Afterwards, Gerrard said of the Black Cats: “Credit to Sunderland, they came to shut up shop and made it difficult.
“I don’t usually get a go (at free kicks). Luis Suarez has been magnificent on set-pieces but sometimes you need people to step in and I got it right.
“He let me take one. He wouldn’t let me take one at Cardiff! But it doesn’t matter who gets the goals. We’ve won nothing yet.”
Sturridge has won plenty of plaudits, though. He and Suarez have both got 20 league goals this season and he said: “It’s a great feeling but it’s more important for the team. It’s not about personal accolades.”