LUIS SUAREZ’s double inflicted a fifth defeat in six Premier League outings for Sunderland, despite a much-improved display against Liverpool.
Sunderland remain rooted to the foot of the top flight table after conceding three times for the fourth successive league outing.
But it was a far more heartening performance from the Black Cats, in caretaker manager Kevin Ball’s first Premier League game in charge since 2006.
Seb Larsson hit the bar before Liverpool broke the deadlock controversially when Daniel Sturridge steered the ball in vis his arm.
Suarez, making his Premier League return after serving a 10-game suspension, then converted Sturridge’s cross to double Liverpool’s advantage before the break.
But Emanuele Giaccherini pulled one back early in the second half to give Sunderland hope of a comeback and the Black Cats then pushed the visitors hard for an equaliser.
Liverpool vanquished any hopes of a point with a minute to go though when Suarez grabbed his second on the counter-attack.
Sunderland were unchanged from the side which beat Peterborough in the Capital One Cup, with Emanuele Giaccherini continuing alongside Jozy Altidore up front.
There were two fresh faces on the bench with Ji Dong-won and Ondrej Celustka included in place of Cabral and the ineligible Fabio Borini.
Liverpool were also unchanged with former Black Cats Simon Mignolet and Jordan Henderson both named in the starting XI.
Suarez produced the first effort on goal in the fourth minute when he turned Seb Larsson on the left and embarked upon slalom run towards the area.
The Uruguyan let fly with a right-footed effort from just outside the D, but it swerved well wide of goal.
Keiren Westwood produced a fine save in the ninth minute when he palmed out Steven Gerrard’s low driven free-kick on the edge of the Sunderland area.
Martin Skrtel tucked away the rebound, but he was flagged for offside.
Sunderland had made a positive start though and only the woodwork denied them the lead in the 24th minute.
Larsson curled an angled arching right-footed free-kick from 25 yards, but the ball crashed back off the crossbar, with Mignolet looking beaten.
Victor Moses volleyed over from 10 yards two minutes later after John O’Shea could only partially clear Henderson’s cross.
The reprieve was only temporary though.
In the 27th minute Gerrard curled in a corner from the left which was met by the unmarked Daniel Sturridge six yards out, who was unable to make a connection with his head, but the ball bounced off his outstretched arm and beat Larsson on the line.
Liverpool then doubled their advantage in the 36th minute when Gerrard sent a pinpoint raking ball to the right flank for Sturridge.
The England striker cruised past Carlos Cuellar down the right-hand side of the area and crossed low for Suarez to tap in at the far post.
Sunderland went close to pulling one back a minute before the interval when Lee Cattermole picked out Craig Gardner with a chip over the top.
Gardner hit a first-time left-volley that was saved by the outstreched right leg of Mignolet.
Moments later, Suarez surrendered possession cheaply to Adam Johnson down the right and the winger cut inside before curling a left-footed shot towards the far corner, which landed on the roof of the net.
HALF-TIME Sunderland 0 Liverpool 2
Johnson fired a low shot a yard wide of the post in the 52nd minute after collecting Lee Cattermole’s lay-off on the edge of the area.
But seconds later, Sunderland had pulled one back when Mignolet couldn’t hold Ki Sung-Yeung’s low shot from 25 yards.
Giaccherini pounced onto the rebound and tucked away his second goal in as many games.
Gardner almost grabbed a quick-fire second in the 54th minute when he unleashed an angled cross-come-shot from the edge of the area.
The ball swerved in the air and was heading for the far corner, only for Mignolet to palm it around the post.
Westwood made a smart save in the 66th minute as Moses let fly with a right-footed shot from the left-hand side of the area that took a wicked deflection off Cattermole.
The Sunderland keeper readjusted well though to tip the ball acrobatically over the top.
Westwood made another fine stop in the 78th minute when he tipped over Kolo Toure’s drive from 20 yards after the centre-half had been allowed to burst forward from a throw-in.
But Liverpool wrapped up their victory in the 89th minute when Mignolet claimed Johnson’s poor corner from the right.
Suarez fed Sturridge down the left and the England striker delivered a low ball across the area which the Uruguayan tapped home at the far post.
FULL-TIME Sunderland 1 Liverpool 3
SUNDERLAND: Westwood, Gardner, Cuellar, O’Shea, Colback, Johnson, Ki, Cattermole (Celustka 74), Larsson (Mavrias 85), Giaccherini, Altidore. Subs not used: Mannone, Roberge, Ba, Ji, Wickham. Booked: Giaccherini (59), Colback (80)
LIVERPOOL: Mignolet, Toure, Sakho, Skrtel, Enrique, Henderson, Lucas, Gerrard, Moses (Sterling 75), Suarez, Sturridge. Subs not used: Jones, Agger, Aspas, Ilori, Ibe, Wisdom. Booked: Lucas (82)