Reds held after Black Cats leveller
Liverpool let slip an early lead as they were pegged back by Sunderland in a 1-1 draw at Anfield.
Striker Luis Suarez, having missed an early penalty, put his side ahead in the 12th minute by heading home new signing Charlie Adam's free-kick.
But their first-half dominance disappeared and Sebastian Larsson, one of the Black Cat's summer recruits, volleyed home just after the break to burst the growing bubble of optimism on Merseyside.
Suarez showed no ill-effects of having only returned to training on Monday after helping Uruguay win the Copa America, and earned his side an early penalty when he went down under the challenge of Kieran Richardson after rounding Simon Mignolet.
Referee Phil Dowd booked the left-back but Suarez blazed the penalty over.
Suarez soon made amends, though. Adam whipped in a free-kick and the former Ajax man nipped in at the near post to head in off the legs of Mignolet. Carroll chested down Adam's left-wing cross before smashing home but the flag had gone up for a foul on Anton Ferdinand.
Downing then crashed a shot off the crossbar. But, from a position of dominance, Liverpool appeared to lose their way and Sunderland gained a foothold in the game.
Steve Bruce's side should have equalised in the 53rd minute when John Flanagan's mistake at right-back allowed Larsson to get forward and cross but Asamoah Gyan headed straight at Jose Reina.
Just four minutes later the visitors were level. Ahmed Elmohamady hung up a deep cross to the far post and Larsson found himself in enough space to superbly volley back across goal and past Reina.
From that point it appeared Sunderland were the most likely winners, but there were no further goals.