Fernando Torres became the fastest Liverpool player in history to score 50 goals tonight.
Fernando Torres struck a record-breaking winner as Liverpool closed the gap on fourth spot with a 1-0 win at Aston Villa in their final match of 2009.
The Spaniard drilled home deep into injury-time to give the Reds three precious points and become the fastest striker in the club's history to hit 50 league goals.
It means Rafael Benitez's side have secured back-to-back league wins for the first time since September and have now moved to within four points of fourth-placed Tottenham.
Going into the Villa Park clash, the Reds boss made just one change from the side that saw off Wolves on Boxing Day with Dirk Kuyt returning in place of Fabio Aurelio.
Many observers had suggested the encounter could prove significant in determining whether the Villans could gatecrash the so-called top four and it was the hosts who made the more positive start in wintry conditions.
As expected, the Reds rearguard were forced to deal with some early pressure but, for all their efforts, Richard Dunne's 14th minute header was the closest Villa came to troubling Pepe Reina.
As the half progressed the Liverpool players were visibly growing on confidence and they could have been ahead soon after, but for some magnificent goalkeeping from Brad Friedel.
Lucas arrowed a superb ball to Fernando Torres on the right side of Villa's defensive third. The Spaniard flicked a delightful pass to Gerrard who hit a stunning 25 yard effort that Friedel managed to tip over the bar on the stretch.
Villa responded and Milner fizzed a long range effort straight at Reina before the visitors were presented with another chance to test Friedel when Yossi Benayoun was tripped by Luke Young just outside the penalty area.
An inventive free-kick saw Daniel Agger feign a shot, allowing Gerrard to line up a 20 yarder that was deflected just wide.
The away side were looking lively in attack and could have had a penalty on 37 minutes when Dirk Kuyt appeared to be tripped. The Liverpool players appealed but referee Lee Probert was having none of it.
Stiliyan Petrov then latched onto Nigel Reo-Coker's angled pass inside the area and sent an overhead effort just over before the Reds were left thanking the agility of their Spanish stopper when Stewart Downing ghosted in unmarked at the far post, only to see his volley beaten away by the Liverpool custodian.
It had been an eventful first period and the visitors had shown enough to suggest they could improve upon their run of just two defeats in their last 22 meetings with Aston Villa.
Indeed, Liverpool continued to enjoy good spells of possession without really mustering a shot in anger until Alberto Aquilani curled a 30 yard free-kick just past the upright.
Villa had barely threatened Reina's goal, but could have stolen ahead on 70 minutes when Gabriel Agbonlahor shrugged off the attentions of Jamie Carragher and drilled a low shot that the Spaniard did well to block.
If the travelling Kop thought that was a let off, then they were left shifting even more uneasily in their seats when John Carew somehow guided a free header wide from the resulting corner.
All of a sudden Villa were in the ascendancy and Emiliano Insua survived another scare when a searching ball appeared to strike him on the arm in the Reds' penalty area.
Liverpool needed to find another gear if they were to snatch all three points and deep into injury-time Torres latched onto a loose ball and drilled a low shot across Friedel to do just that.
Fernando Torres believes his stoppage-time winner at Aston Villa can help propel Liverpool back into the top four in 2010.
The Spaniard drilled Rafael Benitez's men to within four points of fourth-placed Spurs at Villa Park and is hoping the 1-0 triumph can spur them towards a more consistent second half of the season.
"It's never easy to play against a good team like Villa," he said. "We knew before the game that we needed to win to be close to the top four and it was a massive game for us.
"Like last season we are working until the end and scoring points in extra time so now we have to keep going. We are close to the top four and we have to keep going and improve.
"We need to win some games now and if we can do it we will get some confidence and maybe playing close to the level of last season."