Stoke City 1 Liverpool 1

A last-minute equaliser by Robert Huth increased the heat on Rafa Benitez and denied Liverpool of a much-needed win at the Britannia Stadium, as Stoke City rescued a 1-1 draw.

Huth turned in Danny Higginbotham's header from Matthew Etherington's corner to spark a dramatic finale after what had been a disappointing contest.

Stoke then threatened to win it during five minutes of stoppage time before Dirk Kuyt's header thudded against a post from Fabio Aurelio's cross in the dying seconds.

All eyes were on Benitez as he took his seat and Liverpool's edgy defenders were soon put under pressure by a succession of long throws from Rory Delap.

But Sotirios Kyrgiakos made a sound start in the aerial exchanges against Mamady Sidibe and Stoke's biggest threat came via the fleet-footed skills of Tuncay.

Liverpool countered with a Lucas shot which was blocked close to goal and the Brazilian midfielder was then involved in a controversial incident in the 25th minute.

Lucas crumpled to the ground under a challenge from Higginbotham and referee Lee Mason booked him for diving instead of awarding a penalty.

Stoke were forced to make two substitutions, with Liam Lawrence and Andy Wilkinson replacing the injured Delap and Abdoulaye Faye.

And the match itself was turning into a hard fought but very scrappy affair with both sides struggling to find any fluency.

Neither goalkeeper had a save to make in a poor first half and there was no improvement at the start of the second period, as a series of petty fouls halted the flow.

Stoke attempted to build up a head of steam as Lawrence's free-kick was deflected for a corner and Tuncay brilliantly killed a long ball before drilling his shot well wide.

But Liverpool took a 57th minute lead after Higginbotham fouled Philipp Degen on the right flank.

Aurelio curled a vicious ball towards the near post which proved too hot for Thomas Sorensen to hold. The Danish keeper could only fumble the ball into the body of the onrushing Kyrgiakos, who followed up to make sure with a second touch on the line.

Stoke went close to an equaliser four minutes later when Tuncay headed over after Ryan Shawcross had flicked on a long throw from Salif Diao.

And Ricardo Fuller, who had replaced the tiring Sidibe, forced the first save of the match from Jose Reina after he rose highest to meet Etherington's right-wing corner.

But Benitez's men were chasing and harassing the home side over every inch of turf - in an obvious show of support for their beleaguered manager - and they looked likely to hold on to their advantage until the late drama unfolded.