The Reds were heading for a disappointing draw that would further have undermined their title quest – until Mohamed Salah intervened.
The Egyptian king had barely had a kick in the first half but early in the second he won and scored the penalty which gave the Reds victory and breathing space at the top of the league.
Liverpool never looked like losing back to back league games for the first time in Jurgen Klopp’s reign.
But a third game in a row without a win would have increased the sense of unease around the club, which grew and grew in a frustrating first half for the visitors.
Salah broke Brighton’s dogged resistance, though, bamboozling Pascal Gross until the German brought him down and then blasting the penalty past David Button.
Liverpool enjoyed early possession but no penetration until the ninth minute when Firmino was close to getting on the end of an Andy Robertson cross.
A breakdown in communication at the other end between stand-in centre back Fabinho and Virgil Van Dijk allowed Glenn Murray a free header, which he put over the bar.
That was about it for Brighton chances as they kept 11 men behind the ball and challenged Liverpool to break them down.
But the best the visitors could do was headers wide by Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri from Trent Alexander-Arnold crosses.
The travelling Liverpool fans, like Salah, were uncharacteristically quiet.
But the Egyptian changed the game within minutes of the restart.
He forced David Button into his first save of the game and then teased Pascal Gross until he brought him down for as clear a penalty as you will see. Salah smashed it home.
Gross had a glimmer of a chance to make amends soon afterwards but Fabinho and Van Dijk blocked his shot between them.
Brighton boss Chris Hughton made a double change to chase the game, but Liverpool had the next chance, Firmino darting forward and hitting a shot which Button could only parry.
“One-nil to the referee,” was the chant of the home fans. But it was really 1-0 to Salah.
It should have been two, but Salah put an 88th minute chance wide.
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