(CNN) -- Australian Tim Cahill dealt Liverpool a desperate and potentially damaging blow with the goal that salvaged a 1-1 draw for bitter rivals Everton and stopped the Reds returning to the top of the Premier League.
Tim Cahill earned Everton the point they deserved with a header three minutes from the end to deny Liverpool.
Liverpool had grabbed the lead when Steven Gerrard, captaining the Anfield club for the 250th time, swept home a low drive midway through the second half for his 14th goal of the season.
But Cahill earned Everton the draw their contribution deserved when he met Mikel Arteta's 87th minute free-kick with a powerful header from inside the six-yard box.
Spain striker Fernando Torres returned to Liverpool's starting line-up for the first time since November following hamstring problems, for the 209th Merseyside derby.
And Torres should have broken the deadlock in the first half when he surged between Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka only to prod his shot against a post from a few meters.
Referee Howard Webb was kept busy as the tackles flew in and he lectured Phil Neville, Joleon Lescott and Arteta after a series of fouls on Gerrard.
Webb later refused Liverpool a penalty two minutes after the interval when Torres went down theatrically after being nudged by Jagielka.
Everton believed they were entitled to a spot kick when Martin Skrtel looked to send Victor Anichebe tumbling.
The referee again waved away the appeals, and the complaints were still raging on the pitch -- and the touchline -- as Liverpool surged away for Gerrard to crash home a 30-yard drive to put the hosts ahead after 68 minutes.
It had been more than 10 hours since Everton had conceded a goal and it looked as though it would be enough to send Liverpool back to the top ahead of Manchester United.
Cahill had other ideas -- and the sides will go through it all again on Sunday when Liverpool host Everton in an FA Cup fourth round clash.