Papiss Cisse and Jack Colback boosted Newcastle United’s hopes of avoiding relegation as the Magpies fought back to draw 2-2 with Liverpool on Rafael Benitez’s latest return to Anfield.
Liverpool had entered Saturday’s Barclays Premier League match in a rich vein of form, including a 4-0 win over Everton on Wednesday, and appeared in cruise control at half time.
Daniel Sturridge scored in the second minute for his fourth goal in as many BPL matches, before Adam Lallana’s fine effort on the half hour made it 2-0.
But Benitez, who knows about comebacks having led Liverpool to UEFA Champions League glory in 2005 after being 3-0 down against AC Milan at half-time, saw Cisse’s header after the break start the revival.
The Newcastle supporters were on their feet again in the 66th minute when Colback’s drive took a huge deflection to leave Simon Mignolet stranded.
Newcastle have five points from their past three matches and are a point from safety, while Liverpool will look to regroup ahead of Thursday’s UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg at Villarreal after their four-match winning BPL run came to an end.
Liverpool’s preparations were hindered by the news that Mamadou Sakho would not be considered for selection while UEFA conducts an investigation into a possible doping violation. Sakho watched on as Kolo Toure took his place in one of five changes.
But there was no visible impact form his absence as Liverpool led in the second minute when Alberto Moreno’s long free-kick was chested down by Sturridge, who turned in the area and arrowed a shot into the bottom right-hand corner.
Sturridge was full of confidence and cleared the crossbar with a long-range effort.
Newcastle were second best and there was little surprise when Lallana made it 2-0, the midfielder bending a sublime 20-yard left-foot effort past Karl Darlow.
The visitors created few chances, but Cisse could have done better when he headed Andros Townsend’s cross wide of the right post.
But the Newcastle forward did better with a header shortly after the break, after Vurnon Anita’s deep right-wing cross caught Mignolet in no man’s land.
Sturridge had penalty claims for a trip from Cheick Tiote turned down and a Newcastle counter-attack led to Moussa Sissoko passing up the chance to shoot in a promising position.
Liverpool thought they had regained the two-goal cushion when Roberto Firmino tapped in after Sturridge’s header was saved, but the Brazilian was offside.
Anfield was stunned in the 66th minute when Townsend’s cross was not dealt with and the on-rushing Colback saw his low strike take a huge deflection beyond Mignolet.
Benitez threw on Aleksandar Mitrovic in search of a winner and Liverpool’s defending became more frantic.
The visitors had to remain on guard, though, and Anita made a crucial block from Philippe Coutinho’s goalbound effort to make sure the points were shared.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: “No, I’m not angry. It doesn’t feel like we won a point. It feels like we have lost it. It’s not our best day.
“It was an intensive game. Newcastle had two shots and two goals. We had a few more shots and could have scored more goals but didn’t and have to take what we can get.”
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez: “I’m really pleased because of the passion and fight they showed. We changed two or three little things but we were still working hard and believed we could do it. A draw is fine for us at the moment.
“When you are bottom of the table and can still see this spirit and fight you have to be pleased. It’s a bigger step for us because we can keep believing. every game now for us is massive. I have the Geordies and the Scousers on my side.”