Danny Murphy lifted the pressure on manager Gerard Houllier with the goal which could put Liverpool's season back on track as it secured a 1-0 win at Manchester City.
After 10 league games without a victory, and six since any win at all, the pressure was on for the Anfield club at Maine Road in the third round of the FA Cup.
However England midfielder Murphy got the winner when he converted a 47th-minute penalty to book his side's place in the fourth-round draw.
While there was a degree of controversy about the spot-kick being awarded, Liverpool were well worth the victory.
City, who have settled in so well to life in the top flight, looked out of sorts in front of their home support.
Houllier made four changes to the side that lost to Newcastle for the third round tie at Maine Road.
Neil Mellor was handed only his second start of the season and partnered El-Hadji Diouf up front.
Milan Baros had to settle for a place on the bench while Michael Owen was still ruled out through injury.
Murphy - after a one-match ban - Djimi Traore and Vladimir Smicer were all restored to the starting line-up.
City were without defenders Richard Dunne (virus) and Steve Howey (Achilles). Gerard Wiekens and Lucien Mettomo were drafted in.
City goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel was tested for the first time after six minutes.
Smicer strode forward and rattled in a 20-yard shot that the Danish star did well to parry.
A minute earlier Mettomo conceded a corner after deflecting a shot from Mellor following a pass by Salif Diao.
Then the lively Mellor cut inside but his shot from 25 yards cleared the bar.
He was brought to ground a minute later when Wiekens laid both hands on him, only for referee Uriah Rennie to allow play to continue.
Wright-Phillips then won a free-kick off Sami Hyypia but goalkeeper Chris Kirkland managed to punch away Ali Benarbia's inswinging effort.
Steven Gerrard picked out Mellor at the far post with a long crossfield pass that split the defence in the 24th minute.
Mellor opted to head the ball, instead of bringing it down and his effort did not trouble Schmeichel.
City manager Kevin Keegan decided to shake things up five minutes before the break.
In a bid a to bring a bit more creativity to his side he drafted in midfielder Eyal Berkovic for Mettomo.
Berkovic had been struggling with a groin strain that forced him to miss the 2-2 draw against Everton on New Year's Day.
He released Nicolas Anelka two minutes before the break but Kirkland stood tall to block his effort.
There was a dramatic start to the second half with Liverpool taking the lead in the 47th minute.
Smicer's intended cross was handled by Marc-Vivien Foe and referee Rennie had no hesitation in awarding a penalty.
Murphy, back in the side after a one-match ban, stepped up and sent Schmeichel the wrong way with his spot-kick.
Immediately before the penalty, Liverpool had a claim dismissed when Diouf went down after a challenge from Wiekens.
That opening goal had inspired Liverpool, so desperate for a victory, and they were playing with renewed confidence.
City hit back and Anelka laid the ball back into the path of Kevin Horlock but his shot went high over the bar.
Berkovic, who had stayed on at the break to work on his fitness, tried hard to get the home side going.
Liverpool were beginning to use the width of the park with Smicer an outlet on the the right.
He delivered a deep cross to the far post but Traore's shot was blocked by Sun Jihai.
The Chinese defender was then taken off in the 70th minute with Shaun Goater brought on to give Anelka some support.
Heskey, who had been suffering from an ankle injury, came on in the 73rd minute when he replaced the tiring Mellor.
Goater had as chance of pulling City level in the 84th minute when he latched on to a cross from Benarbia. However he only succeeded in directing a header high and wide.
Benarbia was brought off a minute later in a last throw of the dice by Keegan with Darren Huckerby drafted into action.
Diouf almost added a second for Liverpool when Schmeichel headed the ball out, only for his 40-yard effort to drift wide of the target.
Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier hailed today's FA Cup victory against
Manchester City as 'a massive win'.
Houllier's side may be struggling in the league but have a taste for knock-out
They moved into the fourth round thanks to a 47th-minute penalty converted by
midfielder Danny Murphy.
And the win means Liverpool are in still in with a chance of trophy treble as
they are also involved in the Worthington Cup and the UEFA Cup.
Houllier said: 'It was a massive win for us and I am very proud of the
attitude of the players.
'Our club has a tradition of success and of winning trophies. This is an
'We had a plan and we didn't give City too many chances. We showed a lot of
solidity and strength.
'This is the second time we have gone to a Premiership club in the cup and
won. Don't forget we beat Aston Villa in the Worthington Cup.
'We have a lot of young players in our squad and some of them are new to
England. It takes time for them to settle.'
City striker Nicolas Anelka, who had a spell on loan at Anfield last season,
was left frustrated.
Houllier said: 'We didn't have a plan to stop Anelka in particular. We looked
at the whole team.'
The match-winning penalty was awarded by referee Uriah Rennie after
Marc-Vivien Foe appeared to handle a cross from Vladimir Smicer.
City manager Kevin Keegan said 'technically it probably was a penalty'.
However Keegan added: 'It was a horrible way to end a cup tie, although we
never got going.
'I never talk about Uriah Rennie except to say I don't like him as a referee
- never have, never will, end of story.
'He is a law until himself. Ask his agent if you can have an interview with