Steven Gerrard helped Kenny Dalglish celebrate his first anniversary back in charge of Liverpool with a 5-1 FA Cup win over Oldham at Anfield on Friday.
Gerrard, starting for the first time since October, netted from the penalty spot after Oldham, who play in the third-tier Gerrard returns to lead Liverpool Cup romp, had threatened a shock.
Robbie Simpson stunned the Premier League hosts by firing Oldham into the lead from 25-yards before Craig Bellamy equalised.
Gerrard made it 2-1 before teenager Jonjo Shelvey’s first senior goal for Liverpool sealed Dalglish his 25th win in 48 games in all competitions since taking over for a second time last January.
Substitutes Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing also found the net in the closing stages to give the scoreline an emphatic look.
Liverpool, who have a two-legged League Cup semi-final against Manchester City to also look forward to, now advance to Sunday’s fourth round draw.
This was Liverpool’s first domestic cup tie at Anfield since they were embarrassed by lowly Northampton in the League Cup last season.
They have not secured major silverware since their 2006 FA Cup triumph, the seventh-time they have won the competition yet they had only advanced past the third round only twice in five attempts since.
Liverpool have succumbed to second-tier clubs Barnsley and Reading in recent seasons while 12 months ago, in Dalglish’s first game back, they lost 1-0 to Manchester United after Gerrard was sent off at Old Trafford.
Gerrard, with his ankle problems behind him, was leading the team out for the first time in three months as Dalglish made eight changes to the side which crashed 3-0 away to leaders Manchester City in the league on Tuesday.
With Liverpool back at City next Wedneday in the League Cup, Uruguay defender Sebastian Coates partnered long-serving Jamie Carragher in the centre of defence as Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel were rested.
Brazilian full-back Fabio Aurelio also made his first outing of the campaign and Liverpool’s rusty defenders found the going tough as Oldham, cheered on by 6,200 travelling fans, made the better start.
Shefki Kuqi, Oldham’s highest-profile player, found himself clean through in the 10th minute after getting the better of Coates and Carragher, but the former Blackburn and Newcastle striker could fire into the side netting.
It should have served as a wake up call but four minutes later Tom Adeyemi, unmarked and eight-yards from goal, headed another great chance wide.
Apart from a couple of attempts from Dirk Kuyt and Bellamy, Liverpool’s fringe players were subdued and it was no surprise when the team 52 places below their Premier League opponents stunned Anfield by taking a 28th minute lead, Simpson beat Pepe Reina with a dipping half-volley from 25 yards.
But their lead lasted no more than two minutes after Dalglish’s team equalised following a touch of fortune.
Shelvey’s tame effort was heading straight to keeper Alex Cisak when it struck Bellamy in the chest and deflected into the corner.
Finally, Liverpool awoke from their slumber.
Maxi Rodriguez was denied by a fine Cisak save in the 34th minute before the hosts took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Adeyemi gifted Liverpool a penalty for pushing Rodriguez.
Up stepped Gerrard to tuck home his third goal of the campaign before Adeyemi went agonisingly close to equalising for the impressive visitors.
But 19-year-old Shelvey finally put the tie out of Oldham’s reach after connecting with Bellamy’s low cross in the 68th minute – his first goal for the club.
Carroll, who has been criticised for his lack of goals, scored in the final minute, a fine first-time shot from just outside the area before Downing, another substitute, made it 5-1 in stoppage time from close range.