Match ends, Sunderland 0, Liverpool 1.
- Liverpool four points off top-four spot
- Sunderland have one win in 11 league games
- Injured Steven Gerrard taken off at half-time
- Liam Bridcutt sent off for Black Cats
Liverpool's challenge for a top-four spot continued to gather pace as they claimed a third win in four league games by beating 10-man Sunderland.
Lazar Markovic poked in a shot to put the visitors in front.
A volley from the Serb also hit the crossbar, while Sunderland had Liam Bridcutt sent off for two bookings.
The home side's Adam Johnson hit the crossbar but Liverpool held on, despite losing skipper Steven Gerrard at half-time after he felt his hamstring.
It was only a sixth clean sheet in 37 games for Liverpool and they had to endure a nervous finish following their failure to turn their dominance and numerical advantage into more goals.
But, despite Sunderland carrying a greater threat with 10 men than 11, the Black Cats struggled to create chances and have managed just one home win in 11 top-flight outings so far this season.
The Stadium of Light side were given a reprieve in the opening minutes when a piercing Philippe Coutinho pass found Markovic, who went down under a Wes Brown challenge.
The Reds were furious at referee Craig Pawson's decision not to award a penalty, but were grateful when the official played advantage in the build-up to their intricate opener.
Fabio Borini appeared to have been fouled just outside the area, but Pawson allowed play to continue and Markovic slotted a shot past keeper Costel Pantilimon for his first league goal for the club.
Markovic almost added a spectacular second when he produced an acrobatic 20-yard volley which hit the crossbar and keeper Pantilimon before going wide.
Borini - who scored 10 goals on loan at Sunderland last season - latched on to a Emre Can pass only to send a shot from a tight angle into the side-netting.
Sunderland managed just one attempt on goal compared to Liverpool's eight in the first half and their cause was not helped when they had midfielder Bridcutt sent off for second yellow after a foul on Can.
Nevertheless, the home side rallied and came closest to an equaliser when a swerving 30-yard Johnson shot came back off the Liverpool crossbar.
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet:
"If you go by the rules then I can go with the referee because they are both yellow cards for Liam Bridcutt.
"Incredible. When you are 11 v 11 and have a better chance, sometimes you are a little bit too relaxed because you think it is even. Then when you find yourself down to 10 the players bring something extra. It is a shame that we didn't do that in the first half.
"We did practically nothing in the first half apart from wait for Liverpool to score. Then we had a go."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers:
"Our only disappointment against Sunderland was we didn't have the extra goals to show for our domination. We had real good control of the game.
"Offensively our game was very good. We got a very good goal and should have had a penalty - it looked a clear penalty and we had one or two other chances as well.
"Steven Gerrard just felt a bit tight in his hamstring. He has played a lot of games.
"He was outstanding in the first half. We don't need to risk it as we have got a big second half of the season coming up and he is very important for us."
- 27VerginiBooked at 28mins
- 3van Aanholt
- 4BridcuttBooked at 49mins
- 11JohnsonSubstituted forMandronat 86'minutes
- 14Gomez Garcia-Penche
- 23GiaccheriniSubstituted forBuckleyat 77'minutes
- 10WickhamSubstituted forGrahamat 77'minutes
- 14HendersonBooked at 54mins
- 8GerrardSubstituted forLovrenat 45'minutesBooked at 55mins
- 29BoriniBooked at 17minsSubstituted forBalotelliat 67'minutes
- 10CoutinhoBooked at 36mins
- 3Enrique Sanchez Diaz
- Craig Pawson
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Sunderland 0, Liverpool 1.
Attempt blocked. Jordi Gómez (Sunderland) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Corner, Sunderland. Conceded by Alberto Moreno.
Attempt missed. Mikael Mandron (Sunderland) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by William Buckley with a cross.
Lazar Markovic (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Jordi Gómez (Sunderland).
Attempt blocked. Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Jordan Henderson.
Mario Balotelli (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Wes Brown (Sunderland).
Substitution, Sunderland. Mikael Mandron replaces Adam Johnson.
Mario Balotelli (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Wes Brown (Sunderland).
Hand ball by William Buckley (Sunderland).
Attempt blocked. Danny Graham (Sunderland) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Wes Brown.
Attempt missed. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is too high from a direct free kick.
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by John O'Shea (Sunderland).
Offside, Sunderland. Adam Johnson tries a through ball, but William Buckley is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Mario Balotelli (Liverpool) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Alberto Moreno with a cross.