Liverpool 3 Tottenham 2 (Half-time 1-1)

The enigmatic Mario Balotelli finally made his mark in the way that Liverpool fans had been hoping he would, when he snatched a dramatic late winner for the Reds last night against Champions League rivals Spurs. In a crackling Premier League encounter between two classy attacking sides, an entertaining five-goal thriller left the enthusiastic crowd on tenterhooks right to the finish. Yet it was Mario, not the much vaunted Daniel Sturridge nor Harry Kane, who had the last laugh.

Much has been made of Balotelli's lack of goals during his brief spell with the Anfield club thus far, but the winner last night may act as a catalyst for better things to come over the second-half of the season.

Liverpool fans at least will hope so, as they continue to battle on three fronts, including the re-opening of the tiring Europa League soon. A revitalised 'Super Mario' would allow them to rotate their resources around and save legs for the final run-in as they chase that top four spot, so vital one feels for their future prospects of chasing the league title itself.

The beleaguered Italian was off the pitch as the first-half see-sawed one way and then the other, with the Reds having the majority of the openings, but Tottenham offering plenty to worry their defence in return. After Sturridge had squandered a number of chances 'coughed' up to him by a somewhat lackadaisical away defence, in part denied by the brilliant reflexes of Hugo Lloris in Spurs' goal, it was the more diminutive Lazar Markovic who put the Reds ahead on 15 minutes.

His left-foot shot seemed to lack the power to beat the keeper, but somehow evaded Lloris on its path into the net, the French international clearly blaming a bobble from the pitch.

The London side had played with true belief when beating arch-rivals Arsenal at the weekend, with Kane at the forefront of most of the good things they achieved.

It was he who again displayed commendable balance as Mamadou Sakho lost his feet in the area, to slot the ball past Simon Mignolet for the equaliser on 26 minutes and amazingly his 23rd goal in all competitions this season. Tottenham, for all their uncertainty at the back, had shown neat passing ability in offence and Kane's finish was the completion of yet another slick movement, with Christian Eriksen heavily involved.

Sturridge almost put the Merseyside club back in front just before the interval, when an impudent back-heel struck the post.

With the two sides on level terms at the break, it was the home side that again nudged their noses ahead on 53 minutes, after Sturridge was fouled in the area by Danny Rose. Captain Steven Gerrard continued his swansong season with a successful penalty conversion.

Yet again Liverpool were unable to maintain their advantage for long, as following a hint of offside, the ball was crossed into the six-yard area for Mousa Dembele to fire home and draw the sides level once more at 2-2.

Cue the arrival of Balotelli, on as a substitute for Sturridge, to break Tottenham hearts with his close range finish on 83 minutes.

It was his first league goal for the Reds, but owed much to the good work by Adam Lallana down the right, whose cross it was he finished off.

It may not exactly be the re-birth of Mario, but it at least goes some of the way towards giving him something to work on until the end of the season. His act of running straight down the tunnel at the final whistle, rather than enjoying the moment with the fans on the pitch, seemed a little odd but not exactly out of character. Whether he starts at Crystal Palace in the FA Cup at the weekend is another matter, as Brendan Rodgers decides where his priorities lie.

Spurs' defeat allowed Arsenal to climb back above them and into the crucial fourth place in the league, at least temporarily until Manchester United play their game in hand tonight. Liverpool lie seventh, a point behind Spurs and three behind the Gunners, as the race for European places hots up.