An unconvincing Liverpool made Chelsea pay for their profligacy by coming from behind to steal a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
The home side’s pain at letting two points slip was augmented by a serious injury to Chelsea goalscorer John Terry, who faces an uncertain future after being stretchered off in the 40th minute with suspected knee ligament damage.
Terry’s 20th-minute header and a series of dangerous counter-attacks had given Chelsea hope they could climb to within a point of English Premier League leaders Manchester United.
But Roberto Di Matteo’s team failed to finish off their visitors and Luis Suarez made them pay 17 minutes from the end with his eighth league goal of the season.
It leaves Chelsea third on the table, three points behind United, while Liverpool remain in a distant 13th.
To add to the home side’s agony, Terry left the pitch with his head in his hands and a look of rare vulnerability on his face after receiving five minutes of treatment in the wake of his accidental collision with Suarez.
Brazilian star Oscar came close to giving Chelsea a sixth-minute lead after Joe Allen lost possession but the playmaker lifted his shot over the bar.
Just when Brendon Rodgers’ 3-5-2 formation appeared to be bearing fruit, with his team dominating possession, an error gifted Chelsea the opening goal midway through the opening half.
Juan Mata curled in a corner from the right and Liverpool’s zonal system failed to track the run of Terry, who bulleted a free header into the top corner for his 50th Chelsea goal in his 558th appearance.
It was one of Terry’s last acts of the game with the captain stretchered off in severe pain after Suarez landed on his knee.
Despite Liverpool having 64 percent of the first-half possession, Chelsea were far more dangerous and Mata’s brilliant run shortly before the whistle ended with a wild finish rather than the second goal.
It was the same theme after the break, with Petr Cech little more than a spectator as all the action hummed around the opposing goalmouth.
Chelsea should have been out of sight by the time Liverpool made them pay for their profligacy with a smartly worked corner in the 73rd minute.
Substitute Suso curled the ball in to the near post, Jamie Carragher met it with a neat flick-on and an unchallenged Suarez applied the headed finish.
The visitors finished strongly and Suarez could have gone on to win the game for Liverpool had last man Cech not timed his charge perfectly late on.