(CNN) -- Liverpool silenced their critics with a pulsating 2-0 victory over Manchester United to revive their English Premier League title hopes in a match at Anfield which saw both teams end with 10 men.
Spain striker Fernando Torres returned from injury put the home side ahead with a clinical strike in the 64th minute on Sunday, and his late replacement David Ngog wrapped up victory in injury-time after Nemanja Vidic and Javier Mascherano were both sent off for two bookings.
Liverpool inflicted only United's second league defeat this season and prevent Alex Ferguson's second-placed side from returning to the top of the table above Chelsea, who are two points clear after Saturday's 5-0 thrashing of Blackburn.
Blog: Liverpool win blows open title race.
The result lifted Liverpool into fifth place on goal difference ahead of Manchester City, who blew a two-goal lead to be held 2-2 at home by Fulham.
Arsenal climbed into third place above London rivals Tottenham on goal difference, having played one fewer match, despite also allowing 10-man West Ham to come back from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw in their capital derby.
In Sunday's opening match, Bolton moved out of the relegation zone with a 3-2 victory at home to Everton.
Liverpool went into the match against United without injured captain Steven Gerrard and having lost four successive matches, with speculation mounting about manager Rafael Benitez's future despite public statements of support from top club officials before the game.
Angry fans demonstrated against co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks before the kickoff, but they quickly got behind their home team in what is the club's most anticipated match of each season outside the Merseyside derby against Everton.
The hosts had the better of the first half but could not make their dominance pay as Edwin Van der Sar stood firm in the United goal.
However, Torres, a late inclusion due to his groin injury, showed what Liverpool had been missing when he ran onto Yossi Benayoun's pass and held off out-of-form England center-back Rio Ferdinand to fire the opening goal past Van der Sar's at the Dutchman's near post.
"In the morning I had decided that he would be involved, but I needed convincing he could start rather than just be a substitute," Benitez told reporters.
"I talked with Fernando on the coach, and that was when I was really convinced that he could play. Playing Fernando was a difficult decision. He was not training, the same as Steven Gerrard.
"But after talking with him we decided it was better to start the game with him. "You could see he was not 100 percent fit, but sometimes 80 percent of Fernando can make a difference."
Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano received his first booking for a foul on Patrice Evra before Owen came on to a hostile reception from the fans who used to worship him in his hey-day in the 74th minute.
Vidic was booked for a foul on Torres, who went off on 80 minutes to be replaced by Ngog, the United winger Antonio Valencia hit the crossbar after being teed up by the persistent Owen.
The former England striker seemed to be clear on goal when he was hauled down by his former teammate Jamie Carragher, but the defender was only booked by referee Andre Mariner to the dismay of the United players.
Their anger was amplified soon after when Vidic was sent off for the third successive time against Liverpool after bringing down Dirk Kuyt.
With five minutes of time added on, Mascherano was then given his marching orders as he fouled Van der Sar with the veteran out of his box and trying to clear the ball.
Then Ngog settled the match as Liverpool broke from the back and Lucas delayed his pass to send the young Frenchman clear on the United goal.
Ferguson conceded that Liverpool deserved to win, but criticized Mariner's performance.
"It is very difficult atmosphere here. There was a wounded animal aspect to the game and it was something we did not overcome," he said.
"I think it affected our players and it affected the referee. There were so many controversial things that happened we have to feel aggrieved at some of them.
"The Vidic booking was the worst decision. It is a foul, fine. But the player has played on, he won the second ball and knocked it for a throw in and got booked. It put Nemanja under pressure.
"The most controversial decision was Carragher bringing down Michael Owen. He was clear through. The laws of the game were altered to prevent professional fouls of that nature and if Carragher goes off, he is their best player and their captain. It would have been a different game."
Arsenal led 2-0 by halftime at West Ham, as Robin Van Persie took advantage of a mistake by goalkeeper Robert Green to slot home Bacary Sagna's cross in the 18th minute and William Gallas headed in the Dutch forward's corner on 37.
But the struggling hosts battled back and England striker Carlton Cole dived to head home in the 74th minute after young goalkeeper Vito Mannone could only parry substitute Alessandro Diamanti's venomous free-kick into his path.
Cole then won a penalty as he was tackled from behind by Alex Song six minutes later, and Diamanti leveled with a cool penalty, not being distracted by ill-advised gamesmanship from Mannone, who was booked for his efforts.
West Ham then had captain Scott Parker unluckily sent off for a second yellow card -- on his return from a three-game ban -- but held on for a much-need point as Green kept out Van Persie's powerful header.
Manchester City drew for the third successive match despite second-half goals from defender Joleon Lescott in the 53rd minute and winger Martin Petrov on the hour.
Fulham bounced back from conceding a late equalizer at home to Roma on Thursday as winger Damian Duff pulled one back two minutes later and Clint Dempsey leveled on 68.
Bolton led 2-0 after 27 minutes thorugh Chung-Yong Lee and Gary Cahill but needed a late winner from new signing Ivan Klasnic -- his first goal for the club -- after striker Louis Saha (32) and midfielder Marouane Fellaini (55) drew Everton level