Liverpool suffered another miserable afternoon as Kaoru Mitoma’s stunning stoppage-time goal saw the holders dumped out of the FA Cup 2-1 at Brighton.
The Reds, back at the scene of the 3-0 thumping a fortnight ago, which Jurgen Klopp described as the worst of his managerial career, looked destined for at least a replay after Lewis Dunk’s lucky strike cancelled out Harvey Elliott’s opener.
But Japan star Mitoma produced a fabulous piece of improvisation to control the ball and then volley a dramatic winner to leave Klopp wincing again.
“Sometimes you have to win a game like that,” Dunk told ITV. “We weren't great today but managed to grind it out against a top side. They are top players and top strikers, especially after the win 15 days ago when we were very good and beat them.
“We knew they wanted to come back but we dug in. We feel like we can beat anyone on our best days and we showed here we can do it on our not so good days. We just need to keep pushing on.”
On fellow goalscorer Mitoma, Dunk added: “It's nice to have him in our side, I'm glad I'm not chasing him. He's a top player and he's come out of nowhere. We are lucky to have him in our team and hopefully we can keep him. We'll take it game by game.”
Brighton, as expected, were without wantaway midfielder Moises Caicedo, who went public with his desire to leave after Arsenal had a £60 million bid turned down.
They shrugged off his absence in style, although there was certainly a hole in Brighton’s midfield as Liverpool carved through it early on.
Naby Keita sent Mohamed Salah racing clear down the right and, after his initial shot was saved by goalkeeper Jason Steele, Adam Webster cleared the rebound off the line.
Ten minutes later Brighton also had an effort blocked on the line when Solly March’s low cross was met by Evan Ferguson six yards out, with Trent Alexander-Arnold on hand to clear from under the crossbar.
Then Salah was put through again, this time by Elliott’s cute pass, but he dragged his shot across goal and wide.
However, the roles were reversed to greater effect moments later when Salah played in Elliott, who swept the ball past Steele and into the net.
Brighton equalised in the 39th minute when Tariq Lamptey’s fierce drive was diverted past the wrong-footed Alisson by the boot of Dunk.
The Seagulls captain wheeled away in celebration as if he had known exactly what he was doing, but later admitted it was a lucky touch.
Dunk’s next piece of skill was deliberate, though, an audacious free-kick that floated just wide with Alisson scampering back nervously.
Brighton were desperately unlucky not to go ahead with 20 minutes remaining after Mitoma bent in an inviting low cross with the outside of his right boot.
It was met in front of goal by March, whose prod forward hit Alisson, rebounded back off the winger and spun narrowly wide.
Instead, two minutes into stoppage time, Mitoma struck at the far post, bamboozling Joe Gomez as he controlled Pervis Estupinan’s cross before rifling in the winner.
Defender Andy Robertson said afterwards Liverpool have been “nowhere good enough” this season. “It's so disappointing,” he added. “It's bitterly disappointing. It's hard to take.”