Everton had not won a Merseyside derby since 2010. Liverpool had not won at Goodison Park since 2011. Until right at the end, it felt inevitable that neither side were going to alter their recent dubious records playing like this.
And then sensationally, it all changed. Eight minutes of injury time were awarded, largely because of injuries to Maarten Stekelenburg and Jordan Henderson.
From just outside the box, Daniel Sturridge struck a shot, which bobbled against a post. From there, Sadio Mane was well placed to score.
Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool had won. Ronald Koeman's Everton had lost. It means Chelsea have a six-point lead at the top of the Premier League table on Christmas day rather than eight.
In big blue lettering on page seven of the match day programme, Phil Jagielka, the Everton captain suspended for this game, left a message for home supporters. 'Don't underestimate the part you can play on nights like this,' he wrote.
For that to happen, Everton needed to start fast: getting into Liverpool faces like they did against Arsenal last Tuesday in the second half.
The opening 25 minutes were just what Koeman would have wanted. The first sliding tackle came from Ashley Willliams on Divock Origi after 11 seconds.
Everton hoofed it forward three times in the first minute, testing Liverpool's defence; Dejan Lovren thundering away Seamus Coleman's enticing cross. The number eight on Ross Barkley's shirt was ripped by minute two and by minute five, Roberto Firmino had ducked out of a 50/50 challenge with Idrissa Gueye.
The home crowd was encouraged. Klopp was unhappy, shrieking orders at Ragnar Klavan, the Estonian deputising for Joel Matip for the second game running. He was competing but not always convincing. When Aaron Lennon fizzed a delivery towards Romelu Lukaku, his toe-end stopped him from scoring.
Klopp seemed to be unhappy with Klavan's conservative passing decisions. And yet, Liverpool's reluctance in midfield to receive the ball was of equal significance.
Everton's three in that department were highly motivated and fleshy in appearance; Barkley, particularly, charging around with plenty of enthusiasm but with the composure of a bus without breaks when it came to making the right decisions.
Klopp had told Sky reporters that the grass on the pitch was "a little bit high" for his liking. It had been well watered before kick-off, especially in the areas where Klavan was operating, to the left of Liverpool's defence.
By half-time the pitch, indeed, was cutting up to the point where it seemed like quad bikes had driven on it. Players on both teams were losing their footing and it affected the quality of the spectacle.
Despite Liverpool's poor play, the chance of the half was theirs and when Origi met Nathaniel Clyne's cross, he should have made it 1-0.
There was a sense that Liverpool simply had to get better in the second half because they could not have been any worse in the first. And so, they began a lot more convincingly. Their second chance to take the lead came when Firmino was released by James Milner's lofted pass but the Brazilian, so ruthless usually, struggled to convince that he was in control of the bouncing ball and his tame flick enabled Stekelenburg to make the save.
Everton's problems were mounting. James McCarthy was already substituted for Gareth Barry with a hamstring injury by the time Stekelenburg had to be taken off as well. His exit was a consequence of Leighton Baines' efforts to stop Mane from scoring, the left-back crunching into his goalkeeper in a challenge that needed to be made with Stekelenburg an innocent bystander.
It was only when Barkley applied his studs to Henderson's ankle that the crowd really got going again. Barkley was fortunate to remain involved but Mike Dean, the referee, was some distance from the incident.
Liverpool were pushing harder than Everton by the end and but for substitute keeper Joel Robles' reflexes following Firmino's turn and volley, they victory might have been secured a little earlier.
Sturridge was sent on by Klopp for his first appearance in almost a month. The decision proved to be crucial because Everton's defenders backed off , Sturridge hit the post and Mane did the rest.
Suddenly, it was 1-0 to Liverpool. And it was game over for Everton.
EVERTON: Stekelenburg (Robles 64), Coleman, Williams, Funes Mori, Baines, McCarthy (Barryat 45), Gueye, Valencia (Calvert-Lewin 73), Barkley, Lennon, Lukaku.
Subs not used: Mirallas, Cleverley, Holgate, Kenny.
Booked: Barkley, Gueye, Coleman.
LIVERPOOL: Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner, Lallana (Can 82), Henderson, Wijnaldum, Mane (Lucas 90+8), Origi (Sturridge 82), Firmino.
Goals: Mane 90+4
Subs not used: Karius, Moreno, Woodburn, Alexander-Arnold.