This is not your average love story. It is set in Stoke.

It also involves two footballers who found each other at Anfield, only to be kept apart for nine matches this season as a result of an ankle injury. Daniel Sturridge would be reunited with Luis Suarez yesterday and they could not have looked happier; throwing their arms around one another late in a game which heralded the return of a formidable strike partnership. It was a moment which might have been set to music.

The credits rolled at Brittania Stadium with Liverpool positioned in fourth in the Barclays Premier League table and gunning for leaders Manchester City, five points ahead. Sturridge and Suarez are the trigger men. The Liverpool pairing were reunited after 66 minutes yesterday and used that time to get in some target practice - killing off Stoke City by taking turns to set each other up for goals late in the second half.

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Liverpool were ahead by then but still vulnerable as Stoke had recovered to trail 3-2. It was a scoreline which tugged at the heart-strings of the neutral - who doesn't like to see the wee team give the odds a kicking? - but the strikers from Anfield would not be kept apart. First Sturridge caressed a pass into the path of Suarez to clip a low shot across goal and into the corner, before the favour was returned three minutes from the end when the Uruguayan sent his team-mate scampering in behind the Stoke defence.

Sturridge had not played in a competitive match since November and his finish would be detained by rustiness, a heavy touch forcing him wide enough that goalkeeper Jack Butland got a hand to his initial shot. The England internationalist then juggled the ball on his head and his thigh before flicking it low and into the corner of the net. That made it 5-3 and finished Stoke.

It might seem a little curious then that Mark Hughes, the home side's manager, was only getting started. He was typically bullish about the performance of his side - even though they had fallen behind to an own goal from Ryan Shawcross after just five minutes - with his main concern relating to the contentious decision to award Liverpool a penalty after 51 minutes.

Raheem Sterling had shown poise to collect the ball and dart into the penalty area but then appeared to surrender it all at once when Marc Wilson approached him. The Liverpool winger fell to the ground with negligible contact and Steven Gerrard converted the spot-kick. "I thought the penalty decision was a poor one; I don't think it merited a penalty," said Hughes. "The lad's gone over too easily and the referee's bought that."

It would make the scale of the defeat a much harder sell. Suarez had given Liverpool a two-goal lead after 32 minutes but Stoke displayed an impressive resolve to draw level before the end of the first half. Peter Crouch guided in the first goal and Charlie Adam scudded in a second - the Scotland midfielder slipping as he took possession and stumbling towards goal, only to then steer a most graceful shot past goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

Gerrard made it 3-2 and then Sturridge return to blossom alongside Suarez. It would not seem to matter when Jon Walters scored a third goal for Stoke late on. "I thought they were brilliant," said Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, of his side. "To come here and get five goals and put in the work and the effort is fantastic. We went out in the second half and we went again."

That effort ended in a win. And with two lost team-mates sharing an embrace.