The Blues were denied consecutive away wins in the closing seconds of the game so remain fourth in the table.
In match that came to life after half-time, Chelsea tookthe lead midway through the first half, Oscar scoring from a corner, but Liverpool hit back soon after the interval through Daniel Sturridge who had not started the game.
Our former striker continued to cause problems and Liverpool had the better of the closing stages of the game, but by then were behind to an Eden Hazard penalty, given away by Luis Suarez. The Liverpool striker’s afternoon will be under the microscope after what TV shots appeared to show was a bite on the arm of Branislav Ivanovic, but the Uruguayan also made the final impact on the match by heading in a late, late equaliser.
There were three changes to the side that beat Fulham, one in defence, one in midfield and one out wide where Oscar came in for Victor Moses.
Cesar Azpilicueta returned and with Branislav Ivanovic moving to partner David Luiz at centre-back, John Terry moved to the bench. John Mikel Obi replaced Frank Lampard.
Unlike Fernando Torres who was given the nod, Sturridge was denied the opportunity to start against his former team. Stewart Downing played instead in Liverpool’s only change.
Tottenham’s home win over Manchester City earlier in the day only emphasised the need for victory from this game with the north Londoners pulling level with us on points.
There were good early signs for the visitors. Inside two minutes Torres looked to have nipped in behind the tumbling Agger onto a high ball forward but was harshly whistled up for a foul. The first real chance was Liverpool’s however, when Glen Johnson was allowed to run unchecked onto a ball played behind David Luiz. Fortunately the former Chelsea right-back paddled his shot wide.
The Blues were bright on 10 minutes, Ramires nutmegging his compatriot Lucas and allowing Mata and Hazard to win a corner, but the Reds defence dealt with that comfortably. That would not always be the case over the 90 minutes.
Hazard broke through a challenge in the centre of the park and went at the Liverpool backline, and Mata was involved in the move too but Oscar poked his eventual shot at Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal. It was for the most part an even first 20 minutes of the game.
Ramires drew an unconvincing double-fisted punch from Reina, straight back out into play, with a crisp strike and that signalled the start of a period of good control for the visitors.
The reward was the opening goal with 25 minutes played. A typically forceful Hazard run down the right won a corner and when Mata played it towards the near-post area, Liverpool defenders were caught on their heels.
Oscar wasn’t! Running towards the ball, his header was guided beyond Reina who couldn’t quite keep it out.
The Liverpool keeper was only a whisker away from conceding a second goal soon after when what looked a straight-forward free-kick to pouch from David Luiz escaped his grasp. The keeper pushed it away a foot or so from crossing the line in front of the Kop.
Petr Cech, in contrast seconds later, was sharp in coming off his line to snuff out danger when Liverpool looked to have created a clear chance.
Brendan Rodgers side, whose general play was quite low in tempo, had looked threatening when quickening the pace around our penalty area, but the opening goal notably knocked their belief. Time and time again we won the ball back in their half of the pitch, through a combination of good pressing and Liverpool sloppiness.
Torres, again masked for the match, was booked for an aerial challenge on Jamie Carragher before the home side did go close. A pass down the right found Suarez ‘s good run but Cech saved well at his near-post. That was Liverpool’s best opportunity of the first 45 minutes.
Rodgers made a half-time switch – Sturridge for Coutinho – and the impact was almost instant. The former Chelsea man raced past Mikel and supplied Gerrard who eight yards out, looked certain to score. Somehow Cech stretched his leg to save with his boot. It was a fantastic stop. There were less than 20 seconds of the half gone.
Liverpool were invigorated and in between two undefended balls across our six-yard box, Sturridge rifled a shot against the post. Chelsea were rocking and Cech saved a header from Agger although the whistle went for a foul anyway.
Sturridge got his goal on 51 minutes, in the right place to turn a Suarez cross past Cech from close-range.We needed to quickly get to grips with the new man on the pitch.
Azpilicueta was booked for a deliberate handball near halfway but it was another handball just two minutes later that was to have a far greater impact on the game. Suarez was turning away as a Mata corner dropped into a crowd but his arm was up above his head when it made contact with the ball.
Hazard dispatched the penalty low into the bottom corner, giving penalty-saving expert Reina little chance. We had regained the lead with 35 minutes to play.
Carragher, only just booked for a foul on Torres, or possibly for the reaction to the decision, was given a free-kick when he challenged for a dropping ball with Ivanovic and David Luiz. It was only a foot outside our penalty area and dead central. This was concerning and there was a big cheer from the Chelsea fans at the other end of the pitch when Suarez blasted it wide.
The contest was back to being even as it entered its final quarter. It was also compelling viewing. Cech crucially cut out a Gerrard cross after a rampaging run from the Liverpool skipper.
The home defence had looked uneasy at Chelsea corners on several occasions and when one was poorly cleared, Hazard’s powerful shot was only prevented from hitting the net by a deflection over the bar from Lucas, who knew little about it.
Benitez made his first change on 77 minutes, bringing on Benayoun for Hazard. Liverpool introduced Jonjo Shelvey who was booked straight away for a foul on Oscar that resulted in the Brazilian hobbling out of the game.
The Liverpool substitute’s cameo got even worse when he missed a sitter with eight minutes to play. Sturridge and Henderson opened up the Chelsea defence but Shelvey shot wide from close range.
Ivanovic threw himself in the way of a shot from the same player but there were still six minutes stoppage time to negotiate against Liverpool who were now on top.
We looked to have succeed but the added period became six-and-a-half minutes long – just enough for one last Liverpool cross that found Suarez for a heartbreaking close-range header past Cech.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Terry (c), Bertrand; Ramires, Mikel; Hazard (Benayoun 77), Mata (Lampard 90), Oscar (Moses 83); Torres.
Unused subs Turnbull, Ferreira, Terry, Ba.
Scorers Oscar 25, Hazard 55 pen.
Booked Torres 36, Azpilicueta 52.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique; Gerrard (c), Lucas, Henderson; Downing (Shelvey 79), Suárez, Coutinho.
Unused subs: Jones, Coates, Skrtel, Coady, Assaidi.
Scorer Sturridge 51, Suarez 90+6.
Booked Suarez 55, Carragher 63, Shelvey 82.
Referee Kevin Friend.