Anfield provoked a sense of dread for City, who last won at the Merseyside ground in May 2003, and they collapsed under an unsustainable weight of individual errors as Liverpool ran amok after half-time.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain produced a midfield performance to thrill the Liverpool faithful in the wake of Philippe Coutinho’s departure to Barcelona and opened the scoring with an excellent ninth-minute opener on an afternoon of high-class finishing.
Leroy Sane scored at the near post to draw City level five minutes before half-time and Jurgen Klopp’s choice of goalkeeper might have come in for greater scrutiny.
Roberto Firmino’s 10th Premier League goal of the season arrived courtesy of a deft finish in the 59th minute and Sadio Mane added a third 126 seconds later, having found time to hit the post in between.
City were down as Mohamed Salah completed a dizzying spell of three goals in nine minutes and, although Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan set up a grandstand finish, Liverpool deservedly inflicted a first defeat upon Pep Guardiola’s side in 23 top-flight games this season.
We all know what happened next…
Take a bow, @22mosalah . pic.twitter.com/od11d9oz3A — Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 14, 2018
Liverpool appeared to be closing in on a second before the increasingly ragged league leaders were roused by Sane’s exquisite talent.
The Germany winger chested down Kyle Walker’s searching pass, darted inside Joe Gomez, skipped beyond a squared-up Joel Matip and clattered a strike past Karius at his near post as Gomez slid in vain.
FULL TIME | We fight till the end! #lfcvcity
4-3 pic.twitter.com/dXVJN1WoQY — Manchester City (@ManCity) January 14, 2018
Ederson saved sharply from Salah but was then left exposed by Stones, the centre-back misjudging Oxlade-Chamberlain’s throughball and allowing Firmino to get goal side and clip a delicate finish beyond his countryman.
Mane then rattled the post with City’s defence reeling but the Senegal international made no mistake in the 61st minute, clattering into the top corner.
Salah passed unselfishly on that occasion and could scarcely believe his luck when an utterly scrambled City were harried into a series of defensive mistakes, culminating in Liverpool’s top scorer lifting a marvellous finish into an unguarded net from 40 yards as Ederson languished in no-man’s land.
Manchester City remain 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League and such advantages are not built without considerable reserves of courage.
B. Silva was a lively introduction from the bench and converted after Gundogan’s 84th-minute shot was blocked. The Germany international then controlled and finished tidily in stoppage time but Liverpool held on to let a shaft of light into the title race.