LONDON - One result does not make or break a season but Sunday's 2-0 victory over Manchester United certainly stopped Liverpool's from imploding after only 10 Premier League matches.
With pressure mounting on manager Rafa Benitez after four successive defeats and 2,000 Liverpool fans from the supporters group "Spirit of Shankly" marching to Anfield protesting at the club's ownership by Americans George Gillett and Tom Hicks, Liverpool needed something special against their arch-rivals.
And, perfectly evoking the spirit of their old manager Bill Shankly, Liverpool rose to the occasion to give everyone at the club renewed belief that this could be the season they end their 20-year wait for the title.
The win relieved some of the immediate pressure on Benitez whose gamble to play an "80 percent fit" Fernando Torres paid off with all three points.
Torres, who had missed Liverpool's last two defeats by Sunderland and Olympique Lyon with an adductor muscle injury, scored the opener after 66 minutes and only played because Benitez decided on the way to the stadium to field him.
"I got Fernando's opinion on the coach journey and after talking with the staff decided he would play," Benitez said. "You could see he was not 100 per cent fit, and was not fresh, but sometimes 80 percent of Fernando can make a difference."
Torres told Liverpool's website on Monday that he played through the pain barrier for 80 minutes until he was replaced by David N'Gog who scored the second goal in stoppage time.
"I wasn't really at my best. We knew before the game I couldn't play to 100 per cent because I had some pain in some actions, but in games like this the pain doesn't matter."
But Torres gave no hint of his agony as he blasted his shot past Edwin van der Sar after out-pacing and out-muscling Rio Ferdinand to the ball.
"I feel a bit of pain when I shoot across so I could only shoot towards the near post, it was the only thing I could do," he said.
Liverpool thoroughly deserved the victory which hauled them back into the title race and up to fifth place. They are six points behind leaders Chelsea, and just four behind United in second place.
"We are in the race again," Torres added. "We knew before the game that we had to win and we did it. Now we have a bit of confidence but we have to keep it going on Wednesday in the Carling Cup against Arsenal.
"Then we have to be focused for Fulham. But we feel like a strong team again because we're working all together like in the past."
Liverpool raised their game while United played poorly and rarely looked like scoring apart from when a thunderous shot from Antonio Valencia cannoned back off the bar.
Both teams finished with 10 men after United's Nemanja Vidic was sent off for the third successive match against Liverpool and then hosts' Javier Mascherano was also red-carded by referee Andre Marriner.
United manager Alex Ferguson admitted the better team won on the day, but questioned whether Marriner had enough experience to handle the game.
Ferguson was charged by the FA last week for improper conduct after doubting the fitness of referee Alan Wiley and could now face further trouble for his comments about Marriner.
Of more concern for Ferguson should be the form of Ferdinand and the poor display of many of his experienced performers like Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov on a day which showed that Liverpool are far from dead and buried.comments