Liverpool moved top of the Premier League for the first time this year as Diogo Jota’s header and a late Fabinho penalty saw off Watford 2-0.
Jurgen Klopp’s men edge two points ahead of Manchester City, who travel to Burnley later on Saturday, having trailed the English champions by 14 points just over two months ago.
The visit of the Hornets kicked off a huge month for the Reds as they remain in the hunt for a historic quadruple of trophies.
A potential title decider away to City next weekend falls in between both legs of a Champions League quarter-final against Benfica before another meeting with City in the FA Cup semi-finals.
Klopp could afford the luxury of leaving Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane on the bench after their exertions on international duty, alongside Trent Alexander-Arnold on his return from injury.
However, the hosts did not have the easy afternoon Klopp would have hoped for with tougher tests to come.
Watford are in desperate need of points for their own battle to beat relegation.
Ismaila Sarr started alongside Mane as Senegal beat Mohamed Salah’s Egypt on penalties for the second time in less than two months to add World Cup qualification to winning the Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday.
Sarr was included from the start by Roy Hodgson and was a major threat as he nearly caught Alisson Becker off his line early on.
Liverpool needed the Brazilian goalkeeper to be at this best for a few seconds that decided the game midway through the first half.
Alisson stood his ground to parry Juraj Kucka’s powerful low effort when the Slovakian waas played through on goal.
The home side swiftly broke up the other end and Alexander-Arnold’s deputy, Joe Gomez, swung in a cross and Jota nipped in ahead of Ben Foster to head in his 20th goal of the season.
But there was a nervousness around Anfield as Watford refused to wilt and even had a glorious chance to equaliser in the second half.
Sarr again created the danger with a burst down the left and his cut back was slotted wide by Joao Pedro.
Liverpool had to wait until a minute from time to get the two-goal cushion they desired when Kucka wrestled Jota to the ground from a corner.
Salah had already been subbed by Mane at that stage so Fabinho took responsibility from the spot and smashed into the top corner to secure Liverpool’s 10th consecutive Premier League win.
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