(CNN) -- Newcastle United edged closer to relegation from the Premier League as they slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Anfield, a result that keeps Liverpool's slim title hopes alive.
Dirk Kuyt (second left) is congratulated by team-mates after scoring Liverpool's second goal on Sunday.
Liverpool, with returning captain Steven Gerrard back in the side, were always in control against a disappointing Newcastle -- who have still to collect their first victory under temporary manager Alan Shearer -- and they took a deserved 22nd -minute lead through Yossi Benayoun.
Dirk Kuyt squared a dangerous ball into the six-yard box and Israeli Benayoun slid home his fourth goal from seven games, as three defenders stood and watched.
That lead was doubled just six minutes later when Gerrard's corner was met with a superb diving header from Dutchman Kuyt, giving Steve Harper no chance in the Newcastle goal.
Xabi Alonso hit the crossbar for Liverpool with a curling 30-yarder as Newcastle struggled to get a foot-hold on the game -- and their situation was made even worse in the 77th-minute when controversial midfielder Joey Barton was shown a straight red card for a two-footed lunge on Alonso in front of the famous Kop end.
Alonso was stretchered off following that tackle and his replacement Lucas Leiva added a third goal in the 88th-minute when heading home Fabio Aurelio's free-kick.
The result leaves Liverpool three points behind leaders Manchester United, although Alex Ferguson's side have a game in hand.
Meanwhile, Newcastle remain second bottom on 31 points, level with north-east rivals Middlesbrough who they face next weekend in a crucial showdown, with just three matches remaining.
The other north-east club, Sunderland, also remain in relegation trouble after a 2-0 home defeat by Everton.
Goals from Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini lift FA Cup finalists Everton into fifth in the table and leave Sunderland down in 16th place, four points above the drop zone.
Elsewhere, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Birmingham City will be playing Premier League football next season after the final day of the English League Championship.
Wolverhampton were already confirmed as champions, but Birmingham secured the second promotion place after a 2-1 win at Reading, who join Sheffield United, Burnley and Preston in the play-offs to determine the third promotion place.
Meanwhile, Kris Boyd claimed his 30th goal of the season to give Rangers a crucial 2-0 win over Hearts in the Scottish Premier League.
The victory allowed Rangers to keep the pressure on Celtic at the top of the table, with Celtic leading their Glasgow rivals by just a single point ahead of next week's crunch encounter between the two sides.