Liverpool paid the price for a stack of missed chances as they were held to a 1-1 draw by newly-promoted Norwich City at Anfield.
Craig Bellamy fired the Reds in front just before the break but they failed to build on that breakthrough in the second half.
Substitute Grant Holt headed Norwich level and it could have got even worse for Kenny Dalglish's side.
A late flourish almost led to a winner for Liverpool but the ruthless streak the manager had demanded was absent.
The Reds will rue the fact they struck the woodwork on three occasions and found former Everton keeper John Ruddy in inspirational form.However, two points were carelessly spurned and Liverpool now find themselves four points adrift of fourth placed Newcastle.
It was a hugely frustrating night for Luis Suarez who couldn't capitalise on a host of opportunities and was on the receiving end of some dismal decisions by referee Peter Walton.
Dalglish made two changes to the side which drew 1-1 with Manchester United.
With Lucas Leiva suspended, Bellamy made his first league start since his return to Anfield from Manchester City this summer.
There was also a first start of the season for Glen Johnson who replaced Martin Kelly at right-back after recovering from a hamstring injury.Liverpool flew out of the blocks but failed to make their early dominance count.
Inside two minutes Martin Skrtel rose to meet Charlie Adam's corner and his header rattled the bar.
Suarez then produced a sensational turn in the box but with only Ruddy to beat he blazed wide.
In the 11th minute Bellamy raced down the left and picked out Suarez, whose volley was brilliantly turned on to the post by Ruddy. The rebound fell kindly for Downing but he failed to hit the target.
Suarez wasted another opportunity soon after as he dragged his shot wide after latching on to Johnson's clever pass.
Norwich survived that early onslaught and grew in confidence as the first half wore on.
Wes Hoolahan got in behind the Reds' rearguard but fired too close to Pepe Reina who gathered at the second attempt.
The Liverpool keeper was called into action again soon after to keep out Steve Morison's header.
Frustration levels were growing inside Anfield when the Reds broke the deadlock in first-half stoppage time.
Norwich failed to deal with Jose Enrique's long ball forward and Bellamy pounced. The Welshman burst into the box and his shot took a deflection off Marc Tierney before nestling in the corner.
It was Bellamy's first league goal for Liverpool at Anfield since the game against Watford in December 2006.
Liverpool were inches away from doubling their account six minutes after the interval.
Suarez glided past Leon Barnett but his shot struck defender Russell Martin and rebounded back off the post.
Norwich boss Paul Lambert brought on striker Holt in a bid to find an equaliser and the substitute made an instant impact on the hour.
Anthony Pilkington whipped in a quality cross from the right and Holt rose to power a header past Reina.
The Canaries were energised by that strike and could easily have led six minutes later. Holt nodded goalwards but Reina pulled off a fine reaction stop to push the ball away.
Dalglish responded by taking off Bellamy and bringing on Jordan Henderson, while Andy Carroll came on for Downing soon after.
Suarez continued to pose a threat but he couldn't find a way past the impressive Ruddy who turned a low drive behind.
With 10 minutes to go Suarez went down under a challenge from Tierney when he was clean through on goal but to the home fans' disgust Walton waved play on.
The Reds continued to press and came agonisingly close to winning the game in stoppage time.
Carroll soared to meet Gerrard's cross six yards out but the big frontman inexplicably headed wide. Then in the 95th minute Gerrard turned provider for Suarez whose sweetly struck volley was brilliantly kept out by Ruddy.