Liverpool's faltering league form continued as they were beaten by a determined and dogged Sunderland side.
After a forgettable first half, the Black Cats took the lead when a Fraizer Campbell shot rebounded off the post and keeper Pepe Reina's head, before Nicklas Bendtner side-footed in.
Liverpool brought on Steven Gerrard and Andy Carroll but to no avail.
Sunderland sat back and protected their lead against a Reds side which failed to come close to an equaliser.
Liverpool may have won the Carling Cup two weeks ago but a top-four place - and Champions League football - seems far from their grasp after just one league win from their last eight outings.
The gap between the Merseysiders in seventh position and fourth-placed Arsenal is now 10 points - while they are eight points closer to the bottom of the table than they are the top.
The victory moves Sunderland two points behind Liverpool - and ended a run of one point from nine going into the game.
Sunderland's pressure and positional discipline provided a tough challenge for a Reds side that rarely provided the guile and invention to show they were capable of breaking down their hosts.
DID YOU KNOW?
Liverpool lost their third Premier League match in a row. They have not done this since October 2003 under Gerard Houllier
Instead, Liverpool were drawn into a fractious affair against a Black Cats team which refused to allow them to get into any type of stride.
Both goalkeepers were hardly in action before Sunderland stopper Simon Mignolet was eventually tested.
The Belgian spread himself to block an acute-angled shot from Liverpool forward Luis Suarez, before palming over an inswinging Charlie Adam free-kick.
The defining moment of the match was then provided by Sunderland when Bendtner scored a winner typical of the bizarre nature of goals that seems to mark fixtures between the two sides.
Sunderland won at the Stadium of Light two seasons ago courtesy of a goal from Darren Bent that bounced off a beach ball, while Liverpool defeated Sunderland when they pounced on a free-kick by Michael Turner, which the defender said he had not taken in September 2010.
"It was a scrappy affair in which both teams cancelled each other out for the most part. But Nicklas Bendtner's goal was enough for Sunderland to register a big home win against a Liverpool side who have now lost three league games in a row."
This time around Bendtner seized his chance after Campbell's shot had hit the post, rebounded on to Reina's head and then back on to the post before falling for the Sunderland striker to score.
The goal gave the home side something to protect and, despite missing key players Lee Cattermole, Stephane Sessegnon and Kieran Richardson, they managed to hold out.
The closest Liverpool came to an unlikely equaliser was when Gerrard hooked a cross back into the Sunderland box and Dirk Kuyt missed his header.
Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill: "In a game of very few chances, it was great to get the goal and it eventually proved the winning goal in the match.
"With the changes that we had to make with influential players out of the team, I couldn't really have asked for much more. It was a great effort by the team."
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish: "We will say what we said at the very first game of the season - we will play all the matches, count the points up and see where we finish then.
"If we could maybe get fourth spot, it would be fantastic for the football club, but winning the Carling Cup was fantastic, getting into the sixth round of the FA Cup is more than where we have been for a little while.
"I don't think the performances that we have had, especially at home, have merited the number of points we have got.
"But we just need to keep going and do what we do well, keep our mouths shut, not feel sorry for ourselves and try to get as many points on the board as we can."
- 22 Mignolet
- 02 Bardsley
- 03 Bridge
- 04 Turner
- 16 O'Shea
- 07 Larsson
- 08 Gardner
- 14 Colback
- 23 McClean Booked
- 09 Campbell (Vaughan - 75' )
- 52 Bendtner (Wickham - 83' )
- 01 Gordon
- 12 Kilgallon
- 25 Kyrgiakos
- 15 Vaughan
- 18 Meyler
- 27 Elmohamady
- 10 Wickham
- 25 Reina
- 03 Jose Enrique
- 16 Coates
- 34 Kelly
- 37 Skrtel Booked
- 14 Henderson (Downing - 79' )
- 20 Spearing
- 26 Adam (Carroll - 69' )
- 07 Suarez
- 18 Kuyt
- 39 Bellamy (Gerrard - 69' )
- 32 Doni
- 23 Carragher
- 38 Flanagan
- 08 Gerrard
- 11 Maxi
- 19 Downing
- 09 Carroll
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee ends the match.90:00 +3:30
Free kick awarded for a foul by Sanchez Jose Enrique on Sebastian Larsson. Simon Mignolet takes the free kick.90:00 +1:33
Stewart Downing has an effort at goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.87:43
Steven Gerrard takes a shot. Jack Colback gets a block in.84:22
Andy Carroll gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Jack Colback. Free kick taken by Phillip Bardsley.80:39
The free kick is swung in left-footed by David Vaughan.80:39 Substitution
Substitution Connor Wickham joins the action as a substitute, replacing Nicklas Bendtner.80:39 Booking
Booking Martin Skrtel is shown a yellow card.80:31
Unfair challenge on Nicklas Bendtner by Martin Skrtel results in a free kick.80:03
Craig Gardner challenges Steven Gerrard unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Martin Skrtel.78:47 Substitution
Substitution Stewart Downing is brought on as a substitute for Jordan Henderson.77:36
Unfair challenge on Nicklas Bendtner by Martin Skrtel results in a free kick. Wayne Bridge restarts play with the free kick.74:02
Sanchez Jose Enrique restarts play with the free kick.74:02 Substitution
Substitution David Vaughan comes on in place of Fraizer Campbell.74:02
Free kick awarded for a foul by Sebastian Larsson on Sanchez Jose Enrique.70:56
Steven Gerrard takes a shot. Save by Simon Mignolet.67:59
Simon Mignolet takes the direct free kick.67:59 Substitution
Substitution Andy Carroll joins the action as a substitute, replacing Charlie Adam.67:59 Substitution
Substitution Steven Gerrard comes on in place of Craig Bellamy.67:59
Luis Suarez gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Jack Colback.
Charlie Adam has a shot on goal from outside the box which misses right.65:00
Foul by Craig Gardner on Dirk Kuyt, free kick awarded. Jordan Henderson restarts play with the free kick.61:33
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Luis Suarez by Michael Turner. The free kick is swung in left-footed by Charlie Adam.59:45
Foul by Sebastian Larsson on Charlie Adam, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Charlie Adam.58:50
Luis Suarez has an effort from just inside the box that misses to the left of the goal.57:50
Nicklas Bendtner concedes a free kick for a foul on Martin Skrtel. Sanchez Jose Enrique takes the direct free kick.55:52
Fraizer Campbell produces a left-footed shot from just outside the penalty box that hits the post.55:50
Fraizer Campbell provided the assist for the goal.55:50 Goal scored
Goal! - Nicklas Bendtner - Sunderland 1 - 0 Liverpool Nicklas Bendtner gets on the score sheet with a goal from inside the six-yard box to the top left corner of the goal. Sunderland 1-0 Liverpool.55:27
Jack Colback fouled by Jay Spearing, the ref awards a free kick. Sebastian Larsson restarts play with the free kick.54:14
James McClean produces a right-footed shot from a long way out which goes wide right of the goal.52:26
Long distance shot from Jack Colback misses to the left of the goal.46:20
Michael Turner fouled by Luis Suarez, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Wayne Bridge.45:31
Dirk Kuyt concedes a free kick for a foul on Jack Colback. Phillip Bardsley takes the direct free kick.45:01
The referee gets the second half underway.45:00 +2:00 Half time
Half Time The ref blows to end the first period.45:00 +1:23
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Dirk Kuyt by Sebastian Larsson. Sanchez Jose Enrique takes the free kick.43:09
Charlie Adam concedes a free kick for a foul on Wayne Bridge. Simon Mignolet restarts play with the free kick.42:39
Corner taken left-footed by Charlie Adam, Dirk Kuyt takes a shot. Blocked by Michael Turner.41:39
Charlie Adam fires a strike on goal direct from the free kick, save made by Simon Mignolet.41:39 Booking
Booking James McClean goes into the referee's book.41:29
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Martin Kelly by James McClean.38:59
Craig Gardner produces a left-footed shot from outside the penalty box and misses left.35:37
Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Sebastian Larsson, Sebastian Coates makes a clearance.32:51
Craig Bellamy challenges Jack Colback unfairly and gives away a free kick. Phillip Bardsley takes the free kick.31:42
Shot from just outside the box by Charlie Adam goes over the bar.30:01
Dirk Kuyt takes a shot. Save made by Simon Mignolet.27:10
Jack Colback challenges Luis Suarez unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Sanchez Jose Enrique.26:40
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Charlie Adam by Jack Colback. Charlie Adam restarts play with the free kick.26:03
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Craig Gardner by Jordan Henderson. Free kick taken by Wayne Bridge.25:43
Unfair challenge on Craig Bellamy by Phillip Bardsley results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Sanchez Jose Enrique.20:31
Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Charlie Adam.19:47
Foul by Sanchez Jose Enrique on Fraizer Campbell, free kick awarded. Phillip Bardsley takes the free kick.18:24
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Craig Gardner by Charlie Adam. Direct free kick taken by Sebastian Larsson.17:06
The assistant referee flags for offside against Fraizer Campbell. Free kick taken by Jose Reina.12:22
Michael Turner concedes a free kick for a foul on Luis Suarez. Martin Skrtel takes the direct free kick.10:59
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Fraizer Campbell by Jay Spearing. Michael Turner takes the direct free kick.10:21
Inswinging corner taken by Sebastian Larsson from the left by-line, Jordan Henderson manages to make a clearance.9:29
Sebastian Larsson takes a inswinging corner from the left by-line played to the near post, Sebastian Coates makes a clearance.7:41
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on James McClean by Charlie Adam. Sebastian Larsson sends in a cross, Headed effort on goal by John O'Shea from inside the penalty box misses to the right of the goal.5:38
Handball by Charlie Adam. Direct free kick taken by John O'Shea.4:47
Free kick awarded for a foul by Fraizer Campbell on Charlie Adam. Free kick taken by Sanchez Jose Enrique.0:00
The match gets underway.
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