STEVEN GERRARD stamped his increasingly dominant personality on this game after City had threatened to pinch the points at an expectant Anfield.
The Liverpool captain made one goal and scored the other as a much improved second-half performance saw them repair the damage caused by their visitors taking the lead out of the blue just before half-time.
City finished with Richard Dunne sent off as well as their lead wiped out, as Liverpool showed just enough to give their supporters some hope that this might be the season when they turn the corner.
Nicolas Anelka's goal, completely against the run of play at his former club, had looked like clouding the new dawn for Liverpool. It was the drive of Gerrard, more than anything fresh added by Rafael Benitez, that ensured that did not happen.
There was an inevitable feeling of a new era starting at Anfield. Not only was the new manager in charge for a home match for the first time, it was also the first at this old ground since the cataclysm of the sale of Michael Owen.
It was a good time for Gerrard to demonstrate why it is his departure that the Liverpool faithful would find completely unpalatable.
Benitez has asked Gerrard to make some adjustments to his all-action playing style, particularly in the way he injects himself into the attack, and there was evidence of the philosophy adding some further quality to his work.
"Sometimes he runs a lot, but it's better to run less and run properly, " was the way Benitez put it. He still has some work to do on his English, but you could see what he meant.
The first half was best forgotten, with Liverpool cautiously working the ball across the back four and displaying the same lack of width on attack that brought so much criticism down on Gerard Houllier's head during his reign.
There were glimpses of the explosive pace of Owen's successor, Djibril Cisse, and a couple of long-range efforts from Harry Kewell, but that was about it. From City, even from Shaun Wright-Phillips fresh from his eye-catching cameo appearance for England in mid-week, there was even less. That was until the last minute of the first 45, when Wright-Phillips lobbed an apparently harmless ball into the box.
Jamie Carragher's touch wrong-footed Jerzy Dudek, who could only help it on its way, leaving Anelka with a tight angle from which to roll the ball into the empty net.
"I don't think we necessarily deserved to be in front, " admitted the City manager, Kevin Keegan. "But we restricted them to nothing in the first half. We didn't play great, but we came here and battled and you have to do that." At half-time, it looked as though that might be enough.
Largely thanks to Gerrard, it was not, and it took just two minutes of the second half for him to contribute to the equaliser.
A low cross from Josemi, the only one of Benitez's four Spanish signings on the field, was a poor one, but it was only stabbed out in the direction of Gerrard, who instantly spotted his chance to thread it through for Milan Baros. The Czech striker, so impressive in Euro 2004, was again all poise and balance as he set himself to dink it past the advancing David James.
The only time City hinted at regaining their lead was when Anelka whipped a volley too high, whilst, at the other end, James saved at the feet of Cisse and then dived low to defy Baros.
It was shaping up as a good return to Anfield for the England goalkeeper, but on 75 minutes he could not hold Baros's low shot after he had been put through by Dietmar Hamann. As the ball came back off his chest, the alert Gerrard was following up to put away the rebound.
It was all downhill for City after that, with Dunne, already booked in the first half for a two-footed sliding tackle on Baros, sent off after holding back Cisse as they both pursued a superb pass from Gerrard.
Dunne was so incensed by Graham Poll's decision that he had to be restrained by the cool head of Danny Mills, of all people.
Poll called for a police escort at full time, which Keegan interpreted as tantamount to an admission of guilt. Keegan said: "I am not going to comment on the referee because there is no point. But when a referee calls his linesmen to the lefthand side of the tunnel and asks for the police to come around him at the end of the game it suggests he may feel he is going to be questioned by players and management.
That says it all." But City did not deserve anything from this match, and Liverpool, for their Gerrard-inspired second-half revival, did.