Since Christmas, Liverpool have been thrilling to watch, playing with attacking fervour similar to that which saw them go so close to winning the Premier League last season.
Against Swansea City, however, they enjoyed the good fortune that sides looking to qualify for the Champions League occasionally require.
For much of Monday’s encounter in south Wales, the Reds were second best. Bafetimbi Gomis bullied their back three for long periods while Jack Cork kept the hosts ticking over in metronomic fashion from midfield.
But as Jordi Amat’s attempted clearance ricocheted over Lukasz Fabianski’s head via Jordan Henderson, it was clear Liverpool’s luck was in.
Liverpool’s push for a top-four finish since Christmas has been built on more than just the odd fortunate circumstance. This was their sixth consecutive clean sheet away from home, a feat they have not achieved since 1972.
And with upcoming fixtures against Manchester United and Arsenal on the horizon, Brendan Rodgers’ side are willing to take three points in any way they can.
This victory was particularly vital given the way United tore Tottenham apart on Sunday. That showing was almost Liverpool-like in its attacking potency; in response, the Anfield outfit struggled for long periods before winning ugly – something at which United have almost become experts under Louis van Gaal.
Sunday’s match on Merseyside could now set the tone for the remainder of the campaign. Victory for Liverpool will see them move above the 20-times English champions and into the top four. Such a feat would have seemed the stuff of fantasy after United’s 3-0 win at Old Trafford in December.
Since that day, Liverpool have not lost a league fixture. They may have showed signs of tiredness in recent games but the momentum remains with them as the season enters its final quarter.
That they have been able to maintain their superb form has been down to the efforts of those tasked with keeping the opposition at bay. Rodgers has been praised for deploying a back three, with Emre Can, Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho all enjoying their best periods in a red shirt. At the Liberty Stadium, they struggled at times – Can did for the whole 90 minutes – but fortunately for the trio, Simon Mignolet is the man behind them.
At Old Trafford, Mignolet was dropped to the bench following a string of poor displays. Brad Jones was seen as a more dependable option, and believing the former Sunderland shot-stopper would head into the reverse fixture as the league’s form goalkeeper would have been deemed fanciful.
But after Jones suffered an injury against Burnley on Boxing Day, Mignolet was given an opportunity to prove his doubters wrong. Six away league matches on, and the Belgium international is yet to concede outside of Anfield.
Mignolet has been roundly criticised for failing to take control when balls are delivered into his box, but his shot-stopping has rarely been in doubt, and those skills were again in evidence against Swansea as he kept out efforts from Gomis and Gylfi Sigurdsson during the first half.
Doubts still remain over his suitability to distribute with his feet as Rodgers demands but, for now, it is hard to criticise him. Six clean sheets away from home for the first time in 43 years is quite the achievement for any goalkeeper, never mind one who was as maligned as Mignolet.
In front of the defence, Henderson was again the match-winner, albeit in fortuitous circumstances. The club vice-captain has found the net in Liverpool’s last three league matches and continues to establish himself as the heir to Steven Gerrard. He is yet to show he is able to control matches quite in the same manner as Gerrard in his pomp, but his eye for a crucial goal is there for all to see.
For Gerrard’s part, he made his return from injury off the bench with just under 30 minutes remaining and put in one of his better performances of the season. His passing ability and willingness to throw himself into a tackle allowed the players in front of him to finally have some joy against a determined Swansea backline.
His performance may not prove quite enough to earn him a regular starting berth, but he will have certainly entered his manager’s thinking ahead of a massive match that became his forte in years gone by.
Whether Gerrard starts at Anfield on Sunday or not, Liverpool can head into the fixture with confidence of pulling off a famous win. Confidence, though, is unlikely to be enough against Van Gaal’s men. They might just require that little bit of luck yet again.