Talk of the title increased in volume at Anfield yesterday.
This would spill out of the stands and into pubs, taxis and street corners, a city awash with anticipation of a first Barclays Premier League title. The final four league fixtures had all been factored into the conversation but any doubts would be drowned out by the chorus of celebration which greeted a home win against Manchester City. It was a stirring aria before an all-singing, all-dancing end to the season.
It was a victory which ended with fans shouting themselves hoarse, and with their team gathering round for a quiet word in private. A pursuit of the league championship has helped unite a squad and the players drew together on the Anfield pitch following the final whistle as Steven Gerrard conducted an ad hoc team meeting. The message was simple: don't let up now.
Loading article content
A match with City tested the leaders, a two-goal lead at half-time having been stripped away after an hour as the home side were left trying to hide their modesty. There has been an inclination to eulogise Liverpool's attacking performances and coo at the threat posed by Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Gerrard, yet there are whispers about their vulnerabilities too.
Liverpool have conceded more goals than any team in the top four this season - City have let in 10 fewer - and their defence can be got at. An own goal from full-back Glen Johnson allowed City to draw level yesterday.
The Anfield side would respond through another successful attack as Philippe Coutinho planted a shot into the net with 12 minutes to go. It brought his team a 3-2 victory and meant that Chelsea are still two points behind in the league table, with a goal from Demba Ba yesterday earning the London side a win away to Swansea City.
That match had kicked off later. Events at Anfield were subject to a seven-minute delay as English football marked the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. A stadium fell silent in respect to the 96 fallen supporters, but perhaps the greater gift came with success for the team they followed to the end.
An afternoon wrought with emotion certainly took a toll on Gerrard, a figure of strength for Liverpool but a man whose voice was made to quiver by sentiment after the win.
"That's the longest 90 minutes I've probably ever played in. It felt like the clock was going backwards in some parts of that game," said the midfielder. "That win means so much. That is such a big result for us.
"We've got four cup finals left. Nothing is ours yet. The important thing now is not to get carried away with that result. We need to stay calm and prepare for Norwich [on Sunday]."
Such preparations must be carried out in the knowledge that Jordan Henderson will miss out through suspension - the midfielder was sent off for a bad tackle on Samir Nasri - and Sturridge is struggling from the effects of a hamstring injury. "The group is very tight. We foster a real closeness here in our spirit and you need that. There has to be a cause to fight for," said Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager.
His side were inspired enough yesterday to take a lead after six minutes as Raheem Sterling stepped on to a pass from Suarez and forced the ball beyond goalkeeper Joe Hart. Martin Skrtel then added a second goal from a corner after 26 minutes.
It took until the second half for City to rouse themselves. And perhaps to recover from the early loss of Yaya Toure to injury. David Silva pulled back a goal for the visitors 12 minutes after the break and Johnson then scored into his own net.
City grew in stature but their recovery was undermined by a player on whom they have so often leaned when under pressure. Vincent Kompany - a defender who had been a fitness doubt before the game - was able only to slice a clearance to the feet of Coutinho, who drilled a shot into the net late on. "Liverpool won the game with a mistake," said Manuel Pellegrini, the City manager.
It was a moment which could have a say in the title race. Liverpool supporters are listening for any more.